Sunday, October 15, 2017

What would you do, if you had a year to live?

An hourglass
Recently, I've been thinking about what I'd do, if I only had a year to live. I listened to a TED talk about how a guy redesigned his entire company by asking this question. The result was that he lifted almost all the policy rules that were promulgated, and his company still functioned. For me, this is a good question to ask, especially, because I'm also on a sabbatical - which is supposed to be a year long. So, it makes me wonder also how I should be spending my time on sabbatical.

I think any reasonable person would say that if they had a year left, they would spend more time with family and friends. I'd also like to add that I'd like to spend more time with my pets too.

So regarding my answer, that was at the top of things to do. But then, I thought, "One year - your friends and family have to work. So - although you might want to spend all your time with them, they have to go to work. What would you do during the time their away?"

Immediately, a number of things came to mind about what I would not focus on. I wouldn't care about a number of things that other people tell me are important for life, including making more money, defining a career path, and other stuff like that. And while I'm focusing on learning languages here, that would probably go too. (But on my sabbatical, it'll still be a focus.)

I think I'd focus on two things. The first one would be living a life that one could point to as being beautiful, courageous, and generous. The second would be to write more; I'd like to record the few lessons I learned - probably as a fictional novel. I'm sure these two points are interrelated.

In any event, I believe I need to spend more time thinking about this question.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Hot Pools of El Eden

Shot from the hot pools of El Eden at sunset.
There's a beautiful hot pool spot hidden in the mountains near Huamachuco called El Eden. Generally, it's only known to the locals; so, the location doesn't appear in guidebooks. I only found out through the receptionist at my hotel.

The pools are actually carved into the mountains, and streams of hot water cascade into these pools and then flow out of them to the bottom of the river of the canyon. I stayed one day, but loved it so much I rented a room there for 25 soles ($8 USD) a night for two extra nights. (The only problem there is that you're in the middle of nowhere, except they do have electricity, but no internet.)

Me in the hot pools of El Eden
Over the last few weeks, I've definitely
developed a relationship with the hot pools of the Andes. And I can say that the soreness in my legs from hiking to the ruins of Marcahuamachuco (Read about it here: Ruins of Marcahuamachuco) disappeared. Also, the soreness in my shoulders relieved when I was in the hot pools of Yuanguat.

It's really got me thinking how these hot, mineral waters work. For ages, ancient people have known that special hot pools cure sickness. There are even two instances, I know of, in Scripture - where bathing in water relieved people's sickness.

In the Old Testament, there once was a Syrian general named Naaman, who was plagued with leprosy - a horrible disease of the skin. Elisha wouldn't even come out to meet the general, but through his servant - Elisha told Naaman he had to bathe in the Jordan River seven times to be cleansed and purified.

At first, the General thought the directions nutty and wanted to leave. But Naaman's servant convinced him otherwise, and he bathed seven times, and his skin was as pure and smooth as a baby's. (I wonder how much of a reward that servant later received.) So happy was the general, he wanted to give the prophet a mountain of wealth - which Elisha refused. Instead, Elisha's servant took it and became diseased. (Some say Elisha's servant was the first of the albinos.)

In the second instance, in the New Testament, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus heals a blind man, by sending him to wash off the mud he put in the blind man's eyes at the Pools of Silom - which were allegedly outside of Jerusalem. I don't think it's a coincidence that like Elisha - Jesus has to heal in a similar manner as one of the ancient prophets. After the blind man washed off the mud, he could see again.

I've been thinking about these stories a lot and haven't really come to any hard conclusions. Except - I think both of the stories say that healing requires humility and faith, and perhaps the two are related.

In the case of Naaman, the general must have been irritated that the prophet didn't even greet him or his entourage when he visited with wealth. Naaman even brought a letter from the Syrian King to let the Hebrew people know how important this was to the Syrian nation.

And even then, Naaman doesn't want to bathe in the Jordan River because he says that the water is inferior to his. And when he bathes, he has to do it seven times. We don't know if his skin got better each time, or if everything cleared up after the whole process. I'm sure, after bathing the first few times though, he was grumbling to himself how silly the process was.

And regarding the blind man, John tells us this guy was blind all his life. Imagine fearing how people would laugh at you, after you washed yourself and you still were blind after it. I'm sure that fear lingered in him, while going through the cleansing process.

Besides humility, both stories also stress faith. And I'm not talking necessarily about a blind kind of faith. Both of the afflicted believed that they could be healed. They didn't give up. (Perhaps in doing so, they implicitly believed in a God and a good God, who had a solution for them.) Even though there was no known solution for their illness, they believed that one existed. Otherwise, both of them wouldn't have tried.

Finally, both Elisha and Jesus stress that one needs to bathe in a specific region. In other words, there's something special in the water that these two bathed in.

Regarding the hot pools I found, after battles, the Incan warriors also bathed in the pools because they knew it healed wounds. So, I'm confused as to how and why these pools work.

(Just an interesting FYI, according to DC Comics, even Batman's villan - Ra's al Ghul (Arabaic for Demon's Head) finds some ancient and special pools that keep him eternally young.)

It's a mystery to me how these waters heal. I'll have to think more, though, about how faith and humility gives one purity (evidenced by Naaman's skin) and vision (evidenced by the blind man's restored sight). And does purity lead to insight? 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Ruins of Marcahuamachuco

At 3,600 meters, which is 60% of Everest Base Camp, I was walking through ancient ruins, part of which was a stone fortress that was at least 1,500 years old. But being at that height, I was having difficulty breathing. Also, I had just finished walking 11 miles (16 km), and I was really tired and thirsty and had no water left. The scorching heat of the sun burnt my cheeks a cherry red, and I felt miserable at the top of those ruins.

From Cajamarca, the largest City in the Northern Andes of Peru, I made my way to a small town called Huamachuco. The French couple I met marked it on my map, and told me to visit the ruins of there. (Huamachuco had really good fried chicken, and I had my own room with internet and hot water there for only 20 soles, which is $6 USD).

A motorcyclist helps me a mile. I'm look
happier, because I'm just starting.
On the day I went to the ruins, I slept in; also, there weren't many tourists. Thus, I had to walk to the ruins, which was 10 km to the base of the mountain and then another 11 km all the way up. It was hot. I didn't bring enough water. It reminded me of the time I almost died in a Turkish desert, in the summer of 2014, right after the Director of Recreation fired Julian, who worked for him for 21 years. Almost Dying (Again) in Turkey. Except, this time, I just could feel my extreme need for water. When I was dying, my mind was really starting to play mind tricks on me for water. (Not fun.)

I arrived at the ruins around 05:00PM. I was tired. The ruins were at the top of the crest. It's built on a plain, and it's really windy up there. Scholars guess the functions of the ruins was either a place to see an oracle - someone who could see into the future. Others, guess it was a fortress. The ruins looked like this to me.

I wished I was with friends. Since it's not so popular, I reckon we could've camped inside the ruins. And that
would be a good story to have. 

At the top of the crest, 3,600 meters. You can see
the village of Huamachuco below.
Even though I was tired, the entire ruins seems to have encompassed probably a 4 mile walk. I did it. And I was more tired, after and more thirsty. 

But the ruins were vast and enormous and open and intact. It was amazing to see, which I couldn't say about the tourist trap of Kuelap. Seeing Kuelap with Tobi

I finally found a security guard before I left at sunset. He let me fill up my bottle. I drank a lot. Filled up more. Drank more. Filled up more. The whole ordeal made me wonder how camels do it. 

The guard told me there was no more rides back into town, but he showed me a foot trail that was a shortcut. It was much easier to go down, of course than up. 

At 3,600 meters again. 
Then at a cross road, three miles away from town, I hitched a ride back with a pickup truck. I sat at the back of the bed, and I could give my legs a rest. 

 I thanked my driver. That night, I ate a nice fried chicken with some red wine. I told the locals that I was getting to know - "I saw Marcahuamachuco."

Me reaching the ruins,
looking unhappy without water.
Ruins of Marcahumachuco

I'm very dehydrated and unhappy. 
My ride back down that I hitched. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

On Being Forgiven: On Yom Kippur

Close to sundown, on the closing day of Yom Kippur, I was hungry and just wanted to eat Peruvian rice and seafood. I could hear my stomach rumbling, and I wasn't keeping busy. So, I was reminded about my hunger. This year, on the Great Day of Atonement, I didn't eat or drink from sunset to sunset. In doing so, I did have an insight into my life. Although I wasn't born Jewish, this is the second time I practiced Yom Kippur. 

I tried it three years ago and almost fainted, and because of how much I hated the physical pain of fasting, especially without water, I skipped it last year.

That was a mistake, and a big one at that. It was a mistake, because I remembered that my first practice of Yom Kippur helped me focus for the year and have a greater level of consciousness for going forward into time. This year, after practicing Yom Kippur, I had the insight: I need to be kinder to my brother.

I didn't grew up with practicing Yom Kippur. In fact, a number of my atheist Jewish friends made fun of me for practicing it the first time. Yom Kippur requires that the observant, amongst other practices, not eat or drink for about 25 hours.

Why put yourself through a kind of self-restraint or pain? Yom Kippur is considered the holiest of the Jewish holidays, because the observant asks God, and all those he or she hurt, for forgiveness. It's not an accident it falls near the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. What better way to start the New Year with a clean slate regarding all your relationships?

The fasting serves at least two purposes, maybe even three. First, the constant hunger and thirst is a reminder to focus on your meditation time, generally the things you've done wrong in the year. Second, the denial of the body's craving (which in Christian theology is the origin of harming others), reminded me I'm not just body and flesh. As Jesus said, "Man shall not live on bread alone." What it means is that, as humans, we're more than just animals; we're spiritual beings that have to be learn how to overcome the cravings of the flesh. Third, in the Western World, it teaches one to say no to the excesses of the world. We're surrounded by food and pleasure, but one must learn to say no to such excesses, which in the end can cause the consumer to be harmed and blinded.

During that time, there was a lot to review in my head - a world in rewind. My own spiritual cleansing reminded me of one of my favorite poems by George Herbert, the Temple. Take a second to read it. It's beautiful.

Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth . . .

Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices; something understood.

(To tell you a little bit about this poem, Herbert argues that all these beautiful metaphors is what prayer is like - a kind of connection to God. I always found it beautiful that Herbert states that our prayer - our request to God - sounds like church bells and can be heard beyond all the stars of the galaxy. A beautiful thought.)

Back to my own reflections. Two major themes revisited me during this time of reflection: The meaning of family and justice. I didn't arrive at too many conclusions. But my oldest uncle on my father's side died a few days before Yom Kippur. I wasn't that close to him; I only met him once in my life. But it reminded me, how short the time is amongst each other. I only have one brother. He's younger, and I realized I need to be kinder to him, going forward.

When the sun finally set on the Day of Atonement, I thanked God for a number of things, I broke my fast with a rather untraditional meal: ceviche (raw fish cooked in lime juice), paella (rice with seafood), deep fried fish, and red wine. I was reminded: "[T]he old has gone, the new has come." (2 Cor. 5:17 GNT). 

Friday, September 29, 2017

My 91st Day of Sabbatical: Resist Evil and Prosecute Government Liars

I've been on Sabbatical now for 91 days; an entire season has passed. In the North - summer turned into fall - and here in the South - winter becomes spring. Incidentally, a pastor once told me that it takes a season for a person to change their bad habits. This is the third part of my sabbatical trip, which I spent in the Andes Mountain Ranges. (The first part was in the Amazon Rainforest, and the second one was at the beaches.) I described my time in the Andes to one of my mentors as "mystical, inspirational, and healing[.]" There was something about seeing ruins - the ghostly and skeletal remains of a civilization that once lived; the cloud forest - which hides great secrets and beauty; and the generosity of the local people, a great force that can change a person's heart and mind. I've avoided reading or watching the news - as one avoids the plague. But whenever I see glimpses of it, I know that the Western World (along with developing worlds) have a problem with corrupt governance. And for years, I've been thinking about how to fix it. I think I have a two part solution.

The first part is if you work for a government agency that orders you to do evil things; resist! Don't do it, or do it badly, or do it slowly. If you're brave enough - blow the whistle on what you're superiors are doing. Governments through history have warred against the idea that there is a god or a higher power, because those in charge would like to believe they are gods. This is laughable and pathetic. As a government worker, if you believe in a higher power, a God, or a personal conscience, all such evil orders are inferior to such a higher power. In other words, it won't be an excuse later to say - "I was only doing what the boss said."

No. You know the difference between right and wrong; so do right - so in the end, you can say, no matter the consequence - You did the right thing, despite such orders. The only reason evil people are in power is because government employees are following orders; once that ends, and nobody listens to those giving orders - they're out of power.

The second part of the solution is that we as a society need to call for the prosecution of government administrators or public officials that lie to us. (If we lie to a cop or to courts, it's a felony - called perjury. When they (politicians and administrators included) lie to us, it's called politics. We need to do this; so that we continue living in a free world we can be proud of, and we can ensure that resources exist for the next generation to advance our society in all it's realms: science, technology, and most important of all - law. Currently, our governments and corporations are stealing these resources from us and the next generation, and covering it up by lying. We need to and can put an end to their theft.

As citizens of a free society, we must now question what people in government are telling us. Martha Gellhorn, the first journalist to write on the Nazi Concentration Camps, said to never believe what governments tell you and to question everything. She confronted an American General in the Pentagon and stated: "Why did you kill so many people then lie about it?"

We now live in a world where lies are born out of government violence, and government violence needs redemption through its lies. And for what? For money - money that needs to be stolen from others and not created by them. Their greed harms so many.

Fortunately for us, the propaganda and ideology of governments and the corporate states are failing. They're demanding that we believe them, just because they've been elected or have status or have a title. Such arguments go - "The president would never say that." Or "The Mayor would never say that." Oh, but they do tell lies, all too often.  (It used to be that we had faith in government because of a war on communism, but without such enemies, governments are saying believe us because we're the government.) I don't think so. We've finally come to a time where government propaganda and ideology are on the brink of collapse. By this, I mean that the reason for their evil and existence can no longer be justified by some foreign or alien power.

Currently, the Ninth Circuit Court is crusading against lying prosecutors - who will hide evidence, fabricate evidence, and lie - just to get a prosecution. But because there are no consequences for prosecutors conducting such misconduct - which can destroy the life of an innocent person accused, they keep doing it. The sad fact is that the Ninth Circuit has found that the state court system is in collusion with these prosecutors. You can read about it here: For Shame.

In my own experience as an attorney, I found politicians lie and play dirty often. Take for instance the City of Baldwin Park ("the City"). The City's lied constantly to stonewall us from finding the truth under California's Public Records Act. Sadly, the courts (including the higher courts) prevented us from getting to the truth. In the end, part of the truth was revealed, and it was discovered that the City of Baldwin Park was engaged in the largest towing scam in America's history. The City was stealing the cars of the undocumented, and in a five year period made over $11 million. The money most likely went into the accounts of certain police administrators, public officials, and the towing company. But, the City refuses to tell us the truth about that money. That money was stolen from the poorest of the poor in our society - just so that the Mayor could have several houses outside of Baldwin Park.

The police, and the police union of Baldwin Park constantly complain they're not getting paid enough for "protecting" the community. But when it comes to the vulnerable needing help - where are they? (Let's not forget all the harm done to the rights of common people for speaking the truth against public officials.) To these employees (and to everyone, actually), I ask what did you do to stop the evil of the scheme against the poorest of the poor? Did you protect people who were speaking the truth - especially when it was helping your cause as well? I'm sure these questions will resurface later and not by me.

In any event, it's not futile or hopeless. We all need to follow our conscience and do our part in ensuring a better world for all of us, and we know if we're doing our part by what we do for the most vulnerable in our society. Better worlds can, and do exist. (Read about the deaf educational program I found in Peru.) Remember: "A good person brings good out of the treasure of good things in his heart[.]" (Luke 6:45).

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Witnessing Good in Cajarmarca: The Deaf and the Ice Cream Man

Pim Heijster on the far right.
Photo is copyrighted by someone.
In Cajamarca, the Dutch Pim Heijster, smiles at me brightly and asks me how my day is in Spanish, while I'm sipping on a cappuccino with amaretto one of his deaf workers made for me. When I first walked into his cafe days ago, I immediately noticed all the workers were women, professionally mannered, and that some of them were deaf. I read about him in my guidebook, which says that he's the gentleman that also owns the local ice cream parlor in the Plaza de Armas, where I had a scoop of coconut ice cream on a cone.

I tell him, "Bien," then I ask him in English: "Are you the guy who owns the ice cream shop?"

He counts the money and is doing the bookkeeping. He looks at me, from above his slouched glasses, and says, "That's me."

I tell him, "Well, I was here [his cafe] yesterday, and I saw so many deaf children and teenagers learning sign language. Are you running their program?"

"I am."

"How are you doing this?"

He tells me some of his story. He says he started his ice cream parlors by hiring single mothers at first, nearly 17 years ago. People told him he was crazy for starting an ice cream shop in the mountains. It would never work, the critics told him. He would go out of his business. Now, he has 7 ice cream shops around Peru.

He fell in love with a Peruvian woman about 20 years ago. They decided to settle down in Peru, instead of moving to Holland. His wife is a professional in cheese making and dairy, which is what Cajarmarca is known for. The right combination of factors came together for him 5 years ago, and all the profits he makes in the cafe he reinvests in deaf education.

I could tell he's busy, so I ask: "Do you have to go now?"

"I do. But why don't you come see me at the ice cream shop at 10:00AM tomorrow?"

"I'll do that."

After waking up late, from sleeping in, I go to the ice cream at 11:00AM. Pim isn't in. I'm a bit disappointed.

I decide I need a morning cappuccino anyways. I go to his cafe, and he's sitting at the round table in the garden, happily telling a number of Dutch guests his story.

After he's done, I tell him - "I'm back." He pats me on the back and smiles again and says he's giving a tour. He tells me to come back to his ice cream parlor around noon.

After my coffee and breakfast, I go back to the ice cream parlor. Pim finishes his tour. He sees me.

He tells me, "Come here and have a seat."

At the table, he tells me more about his story. He says that he started by hiring his first deaf employee 13 years ago. She's now his right hand woman.

The other employees, he tells me, wanted to treat her like she wasn't an equal. So, he tells them, "When I took you in, you were a poor, helpless lady too." That shut them up, pretty fast.

Pim required his regular employees to learn sign language. He says that deaf employees make the best employees, but that they require the whole team to be accepting of them. Everyone on the team also has to know how to talk to them. He summarizes it with a smile and says, it comes down to: "Integration, communication, and education."

He says his personal philosophy on making a living is the 80-year-rule. He says, "The first 20 years, you become educated. The next 20 years, you work for someone - so they pay for your mistakes. The next 20 years, you start your own business. The last 20 years," then he adds for emphasis holding his finger in the air - "if you do everything right, people run your businesses for you."

I smile and tell him I didn't have the luxury of working for someone for 20 years. I went into solo legal practice. So, I know what it was like to make my own mistakes and pay for them in business.

He chastises me and tells me that's not the way to go. I reply, "Well, times were different then. [It's been five years since exiting law school.] Firms were laying off and not hiring." (I don't go into the backstory though, about how the City dragged me into Pyrrhic litigation.)

I ask him "Why invests your money in deaf education. What motivates you to do so?" (Personally, I'm amazed to see someone who chose to take his extra money, not hoard it, and reinvest it in a class of people who need it and is neglected by society here. Deaf people have it much tougher here than in America, and generally aren't employed.)

He points to himself, in his gut, and says, "It comes from deep down in here. I don't know what else to tell you. I have a ten year plan. The next generation of deaf people in this region are going to be employable."

At hearing that, I smiled and was impressed by his vision. It wasn't just something I could almost see, it was something I could almost touch.

We talks for several more hours. He's kind enough to drop me off at my next combi stop.

I was wealthier to have met Pim. I knew I was looking for answers on my Sabbatical, and I felt like I moved one step closer in getting there. So far - seeing those deaf teenagers smiling and accepted and learning has been the best sight I've seen on this trip.

PS: This is my 500th post since starting this blog on January of 2011. I'm glad to make this my 500th post. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Hot Pools and Moorlands - From Celendin to Cajarmarca

Me, on the moorlands of Cocachimba
Malaise hit me in Celendin. I was alone in the small town, and had just finished Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and also finished the seventh season of Game of Thrones. Also, because Celendin, in the town itself, didn't have much to do, I felt a sort of emptiness. I had to get myself out of it.

But maybe I needed less excitement and more of the everydayness of life. For instance, I got my laundry, which was in bad need of washing, done. Also, I needed a break from movies or books too. 

I really had to process everything Twain was saying about Huckfinn and America and mankind. There was a lot. 

For me, the most entertaining part about the book was to see how Huck, a hillbilly teenager, runs away from both his father and the widow. 

On one hand, he's running away from oppression, represented by his father - who seeks to harm him, keep him stupid, and tie him down from advancement. On the other hand, he's also running away from the evil's of society, represented by the widow - who is trying to "civilize" Huck. On the surface, she may not seem like an evil, but the reader finds out that she's entertaining the thought of selling her slave and splitting up his family. In the end, Huck has to receive his real education from the wilderness and the river and Jim - the slave - who seems to know more than all of the white characters and is the only innocent person in the novel. I thought it all very interesting. (And there's more Twain comments on - such as the futility of feuding, the hypocrisy of religion, and the absurdity of class structure.)

Regarding Game of Thrones, (spoiler coming), I felt it when the Night King kills one of the dragons. I thought, Oh no! Also, when the undead are like slaves, fishing out the dragon from the ice lake - I thought to myself, That's what Hell's like. Everyone is going to be a mindless slave in endless suffering. Maybe some people are in Hell today. I wonder who envisioned that scene and where he or she got such an idea.

So, because of all the processing I had to, I couldn't read anymore or watch anymore movies. Instead, I just finished up some local projects. Also, I went to some local hot pools near Celendin - in the town of Llanguat. (For those of you who want to stay there, you can for 20 soles, but be aware there's no electricity out there. So at night, you need to sleep.)

Llanguat hot pools
It was definitely worth it, and I went back twice. The water is brownish, because there's a lot of iron in it. (What color does iron turn when it rusts?) Also, there was no electricity out there or mobile signal. You really feel like you're in the wilderness, and the solitude really creates an awe-inspiring feeling inside.

After being in Celendin, I took a two hour combi to the largest city of the highlands - Cajarmarca, population about 250,000. Cajamarca is a historic city, as it's the place where the Spanish Pizarro captured the last Incan King - Atahaulpa. You can see his holding cell in the city, where he was held at ransom for a year.

It's a horrendous tale of greed and power. Pizarro, an illiterate bloodthirsty bumpkin, lures the Incan King to come. The King has 6,000 troops, while Pizarro only has about a hundred. He offers Atahualpa a Bible. Atahualpa throws the Bible on the floor. Pizarro orders a gun to be fired; so, that he can justify his use of force.

He orders his hundred troops to blast the 6,000 troops with canons. He holds Atahualpa in a cell, ready to kill him. Atahualpa and Pizarro agree that if the King gives him a room full of gold, he could be released. A year passes. Pizarro gets his gold. Then, Atahualpa realizes he's never going to get out; so, he sends a message to his people.

Pizarro intercepts it. He indicts Atahualpa as a heretic and is ready to burn him. Atahualpa confesses and converts and instead is strangled. The whole story reminds me of Baldwin Park; which has taught me, really, only by lying, cheating, stealing, and killing can stupid people become rich and powerful. I think Twain would actually agree. (More can be read about the affair in Jared Diamond's Gun, Germ, and Steel; also, the Bible has something to say about it: "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10).

Today, most of the modern conflicts of Cajarmarca are because of its gold mining, which the rights were given to Americans. But because the mining company was poisoning the water and the wildlife, the locals protested and significantly halted gold mining. (They were dumping cyanide into the water.) Again, another story of greed and unchecked power.

Now, Cajarmarca is known for its great dairy and farming. It definitely has good yogurt. 

I stayed near the Plaza de Armas, in the center of the city. It reminded me of Van Gogh's painting of his room. So, I liked staying in my Van Gogh room. 

Well, because Cajarmarca had some luxuries that I've been deprived of for awhile, I stayed awhile and liked being there.
Van Gogh's - The Bedroom in Arles. 
I had my cappuccinos, ate some pizza, and had a Mexican taco! It even had guacamole inside. I even had some Chinese food, but it was really embarrassing to speak to the Chinese owner - because it seems like I forgot all my Chinese. (The incident provoked me to possibly go to China on this trip.) There was even fast wifi. Too bad there was no Korean food.

Around my fourth day in Cajarmarca, I met a Flemish guy named Diego, who wanted to go hiking with me. I thought I'd like him more, but on our hike, he proved himself too soft for my likings. He got hungry faster, thirstier more often, and complained more often than me.

The Moorlands of Cocachimba
In any event, we took a 3.5 hour hike up the hills - to the Moorlands. There, in the rocks, the Incas had an aqueduct carved in it, but because Diego was too tired to finish the last 15 minutes of it, we didn't go. The
hike to the Moorlands definitely had an eerie feeling to it.

Because we were both tired, I had to hail a ride to hitchhike back down. We sat in the bed of a truck during sunset, and we had a beautiful view of the landscape and the city from the open bed of the pick up truck. 

More of the Moors
I had four arguments in Cajarmarca. Four times people tried to rip me off. I think I haven't confronted as much dishonesty in business owners in Peru than in Cajarmarca. I suppose Pizarro's legacy lives on here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Peruvian Generosity Helps Me Move Forward

I told the cafe owner that I had run out of money and that I could pay him in PayPal, but he refused. (I ran out of money, because there were no ATMs in the area. You could read about it here: Mummies and Coffee). He asked how many U.S. dollars I had, and I said, "Eight." In exchange, he gave me a 50 Sol note, which meant he gave me $8 USD or 24 Soles for free. For an average Peruvian - it's a lot of money; that could easily buy you three meals or a night's stay at a hotel. Needless to say, it was a very humbling experience to have received such generosity. (It reminded me of a time, where a stranger in Korea did this for me when I was 20 years old).

Here I was, the perceived rich American, and a Peruvian was giving me a handout. I asked if I could pay him back with PayPal, but he refused. He said that when he was in the United States, that Americans were generous to him. He was confident the luck would come back to him.

The owner of my hotel knew I had ran out of money too. So, she made me a free breakfast and said, "It was on the house." That really warmed my heart. I only asked for free coffee and there she was giving me a free breakfast. I could feel that these experiences were making me a better person.

The day I had to leave, I went back to the cafe owner and gave him a 1,000 (about $1) South Korean Won note. I told him to keep it for luck, as it's Korean tradition to give lucky bills out. I told him I had it for 14 years. (I should have also told him that I was debt free, so maybe it really is lucky.) He thanked me. I had my last coffee and sandwich at the cafe.

The manager of the cafe then packed me some banana bread and some brownies for my journey onward. That was really kind of her.

The commercial fruit truck that picked me up.
After, I walked to a crossroad with all my stuff and began hitchhiking. The next bus was late at night, and I didn't want to take it. But, since I was in the middle of nowhere, traffic was really infrequent. 7
cars went by in one hour. That's really not a lot.

In the back of a commercial fruit truck.
The first two cars wanted money for the journey, and one grumpy old man wanted a lot. His greed and meanness was in direct contrast to the generosity I experienced. But after waiting for about an hour, I realized, maybe it wouldn't have been such a bad idea to pay the first guy - but not the mean, second one.

After an hour and a half, a large commercial fruit truck comes. I hail him. I offer him $3. He says, "Get in the back." I hitch a ride in a slow and large fruit truck, where the bed was caged in. I kind of felt like a prisoner inside. It smelled like mangoes inside.

The ride was slow and windy and at the top of the mountain crest, the air was getting colder. When I exhaled, my breath would materialize into frosty mist. I had to open my luggage and put on more clothes.

Then at the top of the crest, the driver had to urinate. It was there, I realized that the lighting, the location, and the weather would give me a perfect picture of where I was. So, I took the shot with my iPhone. (See below.)

Eventually, I made it into the town of Huanchaco below. It was an uncomfortable ride that lasted three and a half hours.

In the valley of Huanchaco, you could see fruits growing everywhere; there were mangoes, passionfruit, and strawberries. After exiting, I take three mangoes from the fruit truck and ask the guy's partner, his SeƱora, if I could pay for the mangoes. She gives them to me for free, and after I ate them later, I can't remember having sweeter-tasting mangoes.

Upon exiting the truck, a guy comes and takes my luggage and tells me he'll take me to the next town over. We negotiate $2 for the ride, but he wanted more.

The ride is two hours long, all the way up a windy road up the mountains and then down again on the other side. In an hour and a half into the ride - my driver parks at the side of the road. Goes into a house. Stays for 5 minutes. He comes back out.

After, I notice that he's scratching his nose a lot. He has a lot of energy. He's more talkative. And he's chewing on more cocaine leaves. It makes me wonder if he snorted cocaine in that house.

Well - there was only 30-45 minutes left to Celendin, the next town over. So, I'll be there soon, I think. Please just don't crash between here and there.

He takes me to a nearby cheap hotel. I ask the hotel clerk where the nearest ATM is. He tells me. I think I won't forget how happy he was to see a foreigner.

I'm relieved that I could withdraw cash - finally. I used most of my cash on getting to Celendin but still had some cash left. Oh, there's also some red wine to buy at the local market. And the local market serves proper cappuccinos too. So, that was all good.

In Motorcycle Diaries (both the book and movie), Ernesto Guevara apparently was moved by the hospitality of people when he traveled South America. After these experiences, I could see why such experiences can transform one's heart to really value people.

Shot by me:
From the back of a fruit truck,
 On the road between
Leymebamba and Huanchaco

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Road to Ravesh

Me: Sitting atop the tombs of Ravesh,
looking down below at the world.
I woke up one morning and decided to go to Ravesh - the name of an area with tombs carved into the mountainside. The Lonely Planet said it was only a 1.5 hour hike back and forth. (Perhaps, I read it wrong.) It turned out to be a 14 hour hike return, but it was well-worth it, because of the stunning view.

I woke up late (because I slept 10 hours and loved it) and had a nice local breakfast, made of fresh cheese. The owner of my hotel has a farm, which makes local dairy. I loved the cheese and milk with my coffee.

After taking a 30 minute ride to the nearest village, I asked a local - "Where's Ravesh?"

From the top of Ravesh
He said, "Really far." He pointed to the top of the mountain, and the mountain was really big and tall and said, "At the top. It's going to take 8 hours to go up there."

I thanked him. It was already around noon, and I decided that I wasn't going to make it to Ravesh. Instead, I was going to hike for four hours and hike back.

I walked an hour or two through the shadows of the valley of those grand mountains. Then, I noticed motorcycles zipping passed me, up and up the winding road. There was also a creek that run through the valley.

But while I was trekking upwards, I changed my mind and decided I was going to try to make it to Ravesh.

Walking through the valleys of Ravesh
I saw a motorcycle coming in my direction and decided to hail him down. I asked for a ride. He let me ride with him on the back of the motorcycle to a village an hour and a half away from Ravesh.

From there, he pointed to the the peak of the mountain, which I estimated to be about a mile away, which really meant it was about 3 or 4 miles away, because nothing is a straightforward road in the mountains.

I started my hike from the village of San Salvador to the next village of San Bartolo. I hiked an hour and a half to get to the final village. It was steep and not that easy.

My motorcycle driver - Carlos.
At San Bartolo, I got hungry and asked to buy lunch from some villagers. There was only one shop that sold food.

The owner was a woman, who wore the traditional mountain straw hat and the colorful dresses that the women wear here. She said all she had was pork and rice. We negotiated for a price. I was running out of cash. (See my post on Lemeybambe here: Mummies and Coffee). She agreed. While waiting, I was listening to the conversation the villagers were having. They wanted free food from her.

I had three pieces of pork with vinegar and rice and onions. It was simple but good.

At the registration office, I even negotiated the cost of entering the tombs. I just told the guy there, who looked really drunk, that I was running short on cash. He said I could pay less and gave me directions to Ravesh from the village. It was quite complicated to understand.

I walked to the road to Ravesh for a while, but after walking
I saw them on my way from San Salvador to San Bartolo
about 15 minutes a local caught up to me. He was running. He told me I was going the wrong way. When the local explained the directions, I understood better.

He said I was to follow the paved road and then when the road turned into dirt, that I was to go left. I think because I didn't know the word for "paved road," I got lost.

The tombs of Ravesh are carved into the mountains.
I thanked him and got back onto the road for Ravesh. You know when you're there, because you see the paint on the walls of the caves. And you see the tombs. There wasn't anything that special about them, but the view of the valley and towns below was stunning. I loved it more than my trip to Kuelap. (You can read about here: Seeing the Ruins of Kuelap with Tobi).

I had internet connection at the peak, which was amazing. So, I texted friends some pictures up there. It was 2,500 meters high or 1.6 miles up.

I sat on the ledge of the cliff and just thought
about life. I probably stayed there for an hour. I wish I planned to stay the night there, because I wanted to stay longer, but sunset was coming soon. I had to return to town. Otherwise, I wouldn't catch a bus home from the village of Yerbabuena, down in the valley.

Me: In front of a tomb.
As I started walking back, the sun was setting. The colors of the sky changed into an amethyst hue. The people at the village said good bye to me. They said they were so happy I came and visited them.

By the time I left San Salvador, it was starting to become dark, but at least there was a moon. I knew with a moon, I had enough light to get down to the valley, but it'd take 4 hours. It'd be about 11PM by the time I got down there, and I'd definitely would have to hitchhike in the dark. That's not really that safe for either party too. But I was low on cash, so what were thieves going to take from me?

I hiked down that mountain at nightfall. It wasn't hard, because I was used to running in the dark and relying on moon and starlight. I could see from below, the last of the worker cars and motorcycles leaving.

After hiking down in an hour in the dark, one motorcycle passed me. The guy was young. He refused to give me a ride. I was annoyed, because he knew that it was going to be another 2.5-3 hours to get down there.

Then another motorcycle passes ten minutes after him. Although he had a passenger, he agreed to give me a ride. We're able to fit all three people on one motorcycle. It was tight.

I found out they were workers who paved the streets. They also told me they had a few jobs and only rested on Sunday.

I timed the ride. It was about 40 minutes. He dropped me off at the village.

Shot From San Salvador at Sunset 
I thanked him and went to a local restaurant. A guy sits at the table by me. We talk.

He asks a lot of questions. I told him that I went to Ravesh. When he didn't know where that was, I knew he wasn't a local. I find out he's from Chiclayo. (That was the city where I fixed everything - you can read about it here: Fixing the Broken in Chiclayo.) He asks me how I know Spanish. (I'm getting that a lot now.)

After dinner, I catch the bus home. I'm tired. I have a hot shower. I'm really happy I went to Ravesh.

I was proud of myself that I managed to do Ravesh with all the challenges I told you about in the beginning. Really, there was so much uncertainty. Would I find a ride up? Would I find a ride down? Would I be able to walk out of there in pitch blackness? Like in Motorcycle Diaries, I was able to "improvise" - a key theme in the movie.

Well, thanks to the "kindness of strangers" I was able to see a beautiful site. (For their help, I sent them their pictures later.) It was one of the times where the journey was that much more beautiful than the destination itself.
My driver - "Chaco"

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mummies and Coffee

Two mummies.
"If you look at death long enough, does
death look back at you?"
Get it? 
After leaving the Cloud City and saying good bye to Tobi and Dante, I followed my map, the one the French older couple left me. (You can read about them here: Conversations with the World). On the map - the lady marked an "X" on the little village of Leymebamba and wrote that it was a "Little Cusco". (Cusco is a tourist city, known for it's Incan-Spanish architecture. I haven't been there yet.) I loved Leymebamba right when I arrived. I knew I wanted to stay for awhile.

There was nothing super special about it, except that it was located at the top of some cliffs - where down below you could see a blue stream flowing. It was very scenic and peaceful.

There's a local museum, which houses some artifacts, but their crown jewel are the mummies. I suppose the mummies were placed there, because the government has probably taken most of everything from the site. After all, they had to leave the people with something.

Around the area, some archaeological sites were discovered, much to the consternation of local tomb raiders
A Peruvian cat mummy.
I wonder what Jeh Pani would think of this? 
called huaceros. There's been a local feud as to who owns the ancient property - the local tomb raiders or the government (along with their contracted foreign archaeologists.) In the end, I'm sure whoever wins - the prizes and treasures end up in the home of rich people, mainly in the West.

Nonetheless, I was excited to see the mummies. They looked so different than the Egyptian kind. According to the museum, the natural environment of the mountains have preserved the remains of humans from decaying.

As a kid, I've always thought that mummies were from Egypt. I find it strange that I've been saying mummies in so many of the places I've traveled. I saw mummies in London (read about it here Christmas Party in London) and mummies in Tokyo too. But those mummies were both wrapped in cloth like, because they were Egyptian mummies.

Possum purse
These mummies were different. They were simply packed into a cloth with all their bones.
Because of the environment, it doesn't look like much more was needed to preserve them.

When I was in Beijing, at the center of Tianmen Square was Chairman Mao's body preserved. (I didn't see it, because I was with the underground church, and they detested Mao.) Also, when I was in Moscow, I heard that the Dictator, Lenin's body, is preserved there too. Although I was there too, I didn't feel like seeing him, either.

But it seems to be a universal phenomenon across countries to preserve the dead for hundreds, if not thousands of years. But why want to do this? And why do they always embalm kitties too to go with the dead?

Interesting. It made me wonder if Jeh Pan needs to be mummified on his death as well and put into one of our caskets. I think he would agree to it, as long as he died of natural causes first. The Egyptians killed animals to mummify when the elite died.

Anyways, I was happy to see mummies again. There was a sign in the museum that told me where all the other mummies were located. I was excited to see I already saw the London one. The oldest ones are in Chile. Maybe, go to Chile?

After studying the mummies, I remember what the French guy told me back in Chiclayo. He said, "When I die, I want to say I know the world." By studying these mysteries mummies, I felt like I was one step closer to saying "I know the world."

* * *
Kenti cafe
After the museum, there's a local cafe across the street that I loved called Kenti Cafe. They made wonderful coffee and sandwiches and had the best wifi in the village. So, during my days in Leymebamba, I walked a mile and a half every day, back and forth, up a steep hill, just to have coffee and food.

At the cafe, there's a little hummingbird feeder that bring these dazzling hummingbirds, which look like fluttering gems. Guests are usually in awe and wonder.

The only problem I had in being in Leymebamba was I was running out of money. There's no ATMs around. I didn't know. The nearest one would take a 4 hour trip in the opposite direction. I didn't want to do that. Also, nobody accepted credit card around here. (This would become a problem later.)
See the hummingbird feeder? 

The manager of the place found out I wanted wine but didn't have the cash for it. Also, there's no decent wine in the village. Had I have known, I would've brought some with me from the Cloud City. One store sold an average bottle of wine for twice the price. I refused to buy it on principle alone.

Well, the manager took a liking towards me and asked the owner of the place if she could give me wine. She gave me a beautiful ruby Argentinian merlot on the house. It tasted rich and beautiful, and the liquid ruby went down well. They were very hospitable people in this area.

On the final day, a young guy gave me a ride on his motorcycle to the cafe. It looks like hitching rides on motorcycles is becoming a key part of these travels. After watching Motorcycle Diaries, I wonder if I'm creating a motorcycle diary of my own.
I had my watchband weaved here.

Hitching a ride with Christian
and his motorcycle. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Tobi Needs Legal Help & Finding Dante

Tobi and Me in Kuelap
The next morning, Tobi said his parents had a problem: His village in Germany was charging a couple of households 20,000 Euros or $24,000 USD to fix the streets. Imagine if you had a bill from your local council that says you needed to pay $24,000 USD to fix the street adjacent to your house. Seeing that it was about fighting against local government, I said let's write a letter to your council why this is wrong. Of course, it was illegal for me to be practicing German law in Peru; I was practicing law without a license in two countries. But I didn't care. We all know how much I hate local governments, and this seemed wrong to me. You can take the lawyer out of America, but you can't take the lawyering out of this American.

Immediately, I knew that the best way to win would be to argue preemption also known as supremacy or federalism. Here's how the argument goes. If local law contradicts federal law - which is supreme in the land - the local law gets struck down. It gets wiped out. Federal law is supreme. And Germany is a federated country. There are a number of states all under the authority of Berlin. Like in the United States, we're 50 states under the power of Washington D.C.

I knew that preemption was an argument that worked in Germany. While visiting Volker in Goettingen, there was a big red "X" on a local speed limit sign that was by the German national freeway (or highway), also known as the autobahn. I asked Volker, "Why is there a big red 'X' on that sign?" He said Berlin came in and told Goettingen they had no right to set the speed limit, because it was a federal road. Therefore, Berlin "preempted" the Town of Gottengen from doing so. Federalism wins again. Federalism almost always wins. Go ask the Feds.

To prove the point back at home, Baldwin Park's sign law got wiped out of the books this year. That was because the sign law contradicted our U.S. Constitution on Free Speech. Originally, the City stated that it could control political signs. The federal court told the City - no you can't, that violates the First Amendment's clause on Free Speech. Government cannot regulate a citizen's expression of political speech. That's a good example of the legal theory of preemption, supremacy, and federalism.

So, I told Tobi: "We need to find the Bundestag (Federal) law that your village is contradicting." By searching through only Google - we had to go to the code section on roads and taxes. There was nothing.

Then, I showed Tobi, "Next we go to the Bavarian law. Cities, towns, and villages can't also make law that goes against state law. Your state is Bavaria."

It took a few hours, especially because I didn't have the proper tools, and I didn't know German well enough. Tobi had to help me translate a few words. Sometimes we used Google translator, but after a few hours, I had that Eureka moment, I so love. I found the answer.

I said, "I think we found it Tobi. Bavarian law can be interpreted to say that public streets must be repaired by the City's general fund and not from funds being taxed on selective households."

He asks me, "You think it'll work?"

"That's not how law is. It depends on who is making the decision. But we can try and threaten to sue them. It's a valid argument. You try and see if it works.

"The village cannot tax your parents specifically or the other households, because it goes against Bavarian law. And that Bavarian law says that the street repairs must come from the general fund."

He was excited. He liked the whole research process and learning law. I showed him it was like going down a rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. It's not a straight road to get the answer you want. You get one clue here and another clue there and then it leads to the treasure at the end of the rainbow.

I draft the letter in English to the town council stating our argument and to rescind the repair bill. I look at the letter and re-read it. It hits the sweet spot. I know it's right.

Later, Tobi and I go through it and start translating it in German. We write it up in German. He reads it, and knows it looks right too. When it's done, he gives me a big hug.

He texts his mother and tells her he met a lawyer who is writing a letter for their family.

She writes back, indicating she's happy for him, almost like saying "That's nice, Dear."

I think he feels like he needs to prove that this is a real story - that he really met a lawyer - and that I knew what I was doing. He also wanted to show his parents he cared about them by defending their property.

We send her the letter. She reads it. She writes back, "I need to show this to your father."

In the meantime, I tell Tobi, "Let's see what the council says. Let's see what their argument is. I have another argument lined up.

"They'll probably say that it's in their right to tax people to fix roads.

"We're going to say this violates the Equal Protection Clause. I'll explain more on that later. [Now, I know that Equal Protection usually applies to racial and gender discrimination claims, but I have something.]

"We're going to argue that it's not fair to tax only your parents. It's a public road. Everybody can use it. Not just your parents. Therefore, the public should pay for it, not just your parents. Therefore, the fee needs to come out of the town's general funds, and not just a few households."

(The German legal system also doesn't follow case law - meaning it doesn't follow case precedent - meaning the argument has a stronger chance of working in court. In fact, after Tobi left, I figured out another supremacy argument to get them out of paying this stupid tax.

Also this entire taxing of the roads problem showed me the sorry state all these local governments are in, all over the world. They're running out of money, and now they're becoming creative in stealing it from us. I can't stand local governments. They're all thieves, I tell you.)

Tobi is so happy to hear the arguments. He says if I come to the village, and I win, they'll throw me a big block party.

I start laughing and tell him, "It better be like the one on Pit Bull's music video, where they're throwing a big house party."

The mother texts back and says, "Your father says he needs to show it to the neighbors."

I guess they took the letter seriously.

After a few hours, the mother writes back that they already paid the tax.

We were so disappointed. Oh well, at least we tried.

I was so sad I wasn't going to have my block party. But I was happy to know that I had transferable skills to argue law in other countries.

* * *

The night before, I read Tobi my short story. We had time to kill. You can read it too here: Without Remedy.

While reading it, he said, "Wow, I can see everything in my head, what you wrote."

I thought it was long. And it wasn't as interesting to me, as I read it before. But he said, "Keep going. I want to know what happens next."

After I finish it, he was like, "That was a good story." He decides to stay one more night for me at the Cloud City.

* * *

Tobi had some ATM problems, but that's a story for next time. After solving them, I saw him off at the bus station. He was going North. I had to go South. We agreed we'd see each other again in South America. But we had to part.

I gave him a big hug. I waited, until he walked towards the back of the bus, until I could no longer see him through the bus windshield.

Then, I had to follow through with another appointment.

* * *

Remember, Dante? He was the guy who picked me up on a motorcycle on a rainy day. Here's the link to read about him again: Meeting Dante He gave me a clue that his partner or wife worked near the bus station. It wasn't really that much information to go off of.

But I found a restaurant that didn't have a sign, that was by the bus station. And I walked in and a pretty girl greets me. I think to myself, This would be his type.

I ask her in Spanish - "Is the wife of Dante here?"

She laughs and says, "Si."

I got it right on my first try! Yes!

Then she says, "I'm her sister."

"Ah. I'm the guy who got a ride from Dante. We both fell off the motorcycle."

She starts laughing and says, "I know the story. He told us."

"Tell him I'll be back tonight around 07:30 at night."

When I come back, I bring wine and see Dante there. His wife makes me chicken milanese. I bring them red wine. We talk and share our stories. They seem happy I found them.

Dante has the coolest Spanish accent I've ever heard. He sounds like an Italian speaking Spanish in a sing-songy kind of way. I try to copy it. I picked up a phrase here and there.

And that's the end of my stories in the Cloud City. Tomorrow, I'd have to move on. With Tobi leaving and saying good bye to Dante, I could feel that this chapter of my journey was ending. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

71st Day of Sabbatical - Repair and Design

Today is my 71st day of being on Sabbatical; I thought I'd share what I learned and have done over the past month. (For those of you who don't know my story; I paid off my student loans and became debt free. You can read about it Here: How I Got Out of Student Debt).

From Chiclayo to the Highlands of Peru, I've been fascinated with repairing objects and creating new ones. It reflects my own personal belief that if objects could be fixed, people could be too. (And even more fundamental than that, to me, is that I believe even the dead can come back to life, which I've witnessed thrice.)

In Chiclayo - I was amazed to watch a guy repair my headphones. It was like watching heart surgery. One of the ear buds no longer was pumping out enough sound, and he said that it was because saltwater got inside. May have been when I ran at the beach. May have been my sweat. I ran over 500 miles with these headphones. (I tried to get him to explain it more in detail, but he couldn't. So, I had to do a lot of research on sound and electromagnetic fields.)

He chopped off the earbud and soldered a new coil in. When he did, the new earbud started beating - like a new a heart. It was amazing to see. He did it for $3. Now, I didn't have to throw them away, and my headphones were salvaged and brought back to life. That made me happy.

Also, since labor is cheap here, I've had a number of pieces of clothes re-tailored to fit me perfectly. Definitely worth doing. Makes you feel wealthier, because we all know I'm not.

In the Highlands, I met artisans. I had a woman replace the worn and dying strap on my messenger bag with cloth woven from sheep wool. I liked her work so much, I had her also weave me a new band for my watch - making it a new creation. She was fascinated by the new project that I gave her. Like Tom Sawyer in Huckfinn, I project managed it. (Don't forget, I did some software project management work in New Zealand.)

My weaver - making the new band for my watch.
I met a craftsman who made leather sheaths for machetes. I asked him to rewrap my flask in new leather. It came out good.

Then, I met another leather maker, who made me a new iPhone case and a new MacBook case. It was his first time, so I had to have him revise some of his work several times. But, I like the new MacBook case; it's made of bison leather too!

The leather maker was so happy after he made my case, that he gave me a hug. His 11 year old daughter, who I never met, made me a leather heart keychain. People seem to be so happy that I have faith in them to make my new objects, and they're also happy to learn how to do a new project.

Anyways, like I said - if objects can come back from the dead, so can people. I have a few other projects in my head lined up for me. I also learned that I'm no longer going to buy objects made in China. I'd rather pay the extra money, and buy something of quality.

Also on Sabbatical, I've been doing future thinking about my life, but it hasn't been very successful. Haven't really come up with anything new.

I've also finished two classics: Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby and Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. I'm now on my last classic for this trip (though I have some pulp fiction with me too). I just started Willa Cather's The Professor's House.

I finished watching The Game of Thrones Season 7. I was disappointed in the penultimate episode (Episode 6 - the one in which Daenerys flies her dragons over the wall). I said it was illogical, focused way too much on special effects, and that a grieving mother wouldn't just want to jump into bed with the next guy (or maybe she would, but she would still be grieving over her child). I hope they pay attention.

Finally, I came back from some beautiful hot springs in the wilderness. The pools are in a valley, surrounded by mountains and plains. It was absolutely stunning and brought a great peace with it.

After dipping in them for hours, my sore muscles were soothed, and I felt a lot better. My next thoughts are about the healing properties of mineral water. I'm thinking a lot about it.

Until the next Sabbatical update.



PS: Pictures below of my new objects.

Worn strap from my messenger bag.

New lamb wool strap. 
Old watch band. 
New Peruvian woven wool watchband.
Me: With new watch. 

New flash wrapped in leather.
Worn flask with synthetic

New iPhone case in leather

Me: Sporting my new iPhone case

Worn synthetic MacBook case
New MacBook case wrapped in bison leather.