Monthly Archives: September 2005


September 29, 2005
Day 1

I spent most of the day today getting used to my new environment and catching up on some much-needed sleep. First, I found an ATM and withdrew some money. The machine didn't charge me anything; I hope it's like that everywhere. I also bought some food from the supermarket right by my hostel and made myself a few sandwiches. Next, I had trouble transferring my pictures and blog entries to the Internet because every computer I have found here still uses Windows 98, which means that my USB camera connection needs to install software on the computer for it to recognize the camera. I was completely unprepared for that one. Luckily, I eventually found the software the computer needed online and got it working. After I updated my site, I found the office for my airline and canceled the expensive ticket I was forced to buy. No harm done. After that, I a took a series of naps. I think I'm finally caught up on sleep after a long night of travel.

After my relaxing afternoon, I met some British guys who had just arrived in Lima as well. We tried to find a nearby restaurant, but it was not easy. There were several American fast food joints like McDonald's and Burger King, but we couldn't find any Peruvian restaurants in the area. Finally, we stumbled into a nice little place where we were the only customers. There was no menu, so the manager went into extraordinary detail of everything they served: a chicken dinner and a beef dinner. I had the beef. It was actually a very delicious meal, and the manager was very proud of her fine cuisine (She said that Peru's cooking is second only to that of France). I was most surprised that the food wasn't at all like Mexican food. In fact, the meal I got could be best described as a glorified beef stroganoff, but the sauce had so much flavor to it, it was like nothing I've ever had.

After dinner, we walked back to the hostel and discussed going out for a drink. I thought a bunch of people were going to go out, but it never happened. Instead, I played cards with some people for awhile and retired early.

My first day in Peru may not have seemed very exciting, but when everything you see is different from what you're used to, everything becomes exciting. Many aspects of Lima are exactly how I pictured them. It's a big city without any major "must see" attractions, but it still has a lot to offer. I'm most surprised at how cold it is here (colder than Wisconsin this time of year, believe it or not), and by how loud everything is. People honk their horns constantly and every "bus" (really just a big van) that goes by has a guy shouting out the window about where it's going. Wouldn't it be easier just to put up a sign on the front of the bus? The noise is hard for me to deal with now, but I bet after a few days, I probably won't even notice it anymore, like the parents of a screaming baby in a restaurant.

Tomorrow I'm going to check out more of Lima, figure out how long I want to stay here, and try to figure out what to do next.

I Made It

Written September 29, 2005
Day 1

Once again, my plane from Miami to Lima wasn't delayed; it just took off thirty minutes late. The flight was very smooth, and I actually got an hour or two of sleep. I went to the customs line with my expensive return ticket in hand. I seemed to remember reading that there is no charge for Americans if they only stay in Peru for thirty days or less, yet when I bought the ticket, I wasn't thinking straight. The girl who sold me the ticket made if for the end of December, a full three months from now. I was trying to think up a story to tell the customs guy to get out of paying anything, like I would only be in Peru for a month, then go somewhere else for two months, then return to Lima and fly back home. After all of the "required" preparation of buying a $1300 return ticket and thinking up lies to tell the authorities, the conversation went exactly like this:

Him - "Tourist?"
Me - "Yes."

That's it. No other questions about what I was up to. Stupid airline. After that, I just had to pick up my backpack and go through another line to see if my baggage would get searched. The fool-proof system consisted of pressing a button, after which, either a red or green light appeared. Luckily, the light turned green and I was free to go. No being stuck in a jail cell with Hector yet.

I made it to my nice looking place, an old colonial mansion called "Home Peru." If I feel like I'm awake enough, I'd like to check out central Lima today, but we'll see. I still have to get that ticket canceled, andthe office is supposedly just a few minutes from here. Oh yeah, for those of you wondering how bad the jet lag is, considering the time difference of 0 hours, I'd say it's not bad at all.

Half Way There

September 28, 2005
Day 0

My parents drove me to O'Hare Airport in Chicago this afternoon. It was a dreary day today with rain falling throughout the trip. Ten miles before the airport, we ran into a traffic jam. My dad was pissed that we didn't leave sooner, and I got there a little latter than I thought I would, but I still had nearly two hours to spare, so I figured I'd be fine.

The airport was packed. With so many people talking all around me, I couldn't hear myself think, but after I got checked in, I did notice a rumbling in my stomach. That's when I remembered that I had barely eaten anything all day. I decided to cure my hunger with a Chicago-style hot dog. Normally, this would be a good idea, but not when the line is 15 people deep and there is only one employee working. The entire time I was in line I kept thinking about how great the phone call home would be: "Hi Mom. Unfortunately I missed my flight. I was in line for a hot dog, and next thing I knew, the plane took off without me. But the good news is that I'm full." After waiting for twenty minutes, I finally had a tasty hot dog in my belly. I still had about five minutes to spare before the plane began boarding, or so I thought.

My plane wasn't delayed; it just took off 1 hour late. How that doesn't constitute a delay is beyond me, but the travel boards all said "on time," nevertheless. I sat around and listened to the wild chatter all around me for 45 minutes before the plane was finally boarded. My flight to Miami was smooth, and I was 75% sure the delay would not cause me to miss my final flight.

I got to the Miami airport fairly late at night, and it wasn't nearly as congested as O'Hare. I picked up my backpack from the luggage claim and headed for the check-in for my flight to Lima. This was where I ran into my first real problem. When I tried to check my backpack, it was explained to me that I needed to have a return ticket because I was going to another country. I had read about such restrictions, but I didn't think they were very serious about enforcing them. I guess I was just naive, but somehow I thought that as long as I had money and could convince customs that I wasn't going to their country to steal their jobs, I would be fine. The airline didn't see it that way and forced me to purchase a return ticket. They really like to gouge you at the airport, so I had to pay $1300 for this lesson. I know that sounds bad, but apparently it is a refundable ticket, and as soon as I get through customs, I plan to collect that refund.

After I bought my ticket, I had to stand in line to send my backpack through the x-ray machine. I was in line fifteen minutes before I moved one step forward. At that point, I examined my boarding pass and found out that the plane would start boarding in another fifteen minutes. I was a little worried, but the line finally started to move faster. When my backpack entered the machine, I heard the guy inspecting the luggage yell, "Bag check!" I thought I was screwed, but luckily the bag to be checked was property of the guy in front of me. He had a behemoth of a bag that probably could have held everything I owned, and it was locked. As I walked away, I turned back to see the security guy snapping on a latex glove. Considering how long going through that whole bag would take, I wonder if he even made his flight.

I'm typing this from the gate that my plane will be leaving from. We still haven't started boarding, despite the fact that it is an hour after my boarding pass indicated. Well, I hope we haven't started boarding, anyway. I better check on that.

Time To Go

Written September 28, 2005 - Day 0

In a few minutes, I will begin my journey. I'm going through every emotion in the book. My stomach is in a knot, but this feeling is why I travel. I think I've said just about everything that needs to be said, but one last time: Thanks for all of the support. I hope this site will stay interesting enough to keep up with on a regular basis. No matter what happens from here on out, I'll always remember that I took the risk to live out my dream. OK, I'll stop rambling. Adios!

Last Brewers Game

Yesterday I went to my last Brewers game before my trip with Andrea, Kyle, and Tiffany. This has been their best season by 1992. They went to the game with a .500 record against the Cardinals, one of the best teams in baseball. The Brew Crew lost 0-2 in a pitchers' dual, but it was still fun to see them one last time. I can't remember the last time the Brewers were better than the Packers.

Last night I hung out with Andrea, Kevin, Mike, and Tony. It was more of the same old stuff like playing Golden Tee and driving around town, but it's good for me to soak it all in before I take off long-term. The little comforts in life like being able to sink a 40-foot putt on a video game in a bar will soon be gone.

I have only two days left before I leave. I think I'm as prepared as I need to be, so I'm just going to sit back, relax, and enjoy the last few moments before my trip. There are only going to be a few more "lasts," so I'm just living for the moment and trying not to think about where I'll be in a few days.


Written September 24, 2005

For my last weekend in the US, I went to my parents' house near Minocqua in northern Wisconsin. It's a nice, quiet place built on a small lake and surrounded by lush forests. I think I would get bored there rather quickly, but at least there are a lot of potential outdoor activities like fishing, hunting, and swimming to partake in.

Luckily for me, boredom didn't have a chance to set in because this weekend happened to be "Beeforama" weekend in Minocqua. Large crowds of people gathered on the city's main street to watch would-be chefs dress up in various cow costumes and parade their sides of beef for all to see. The parade was easily the shortest parade I had ever seen. In fact, only one lane of traffic was blocked off for the parade! It also goes without saying that it was the first beef-themed parade I have ever seen. After the parade, everyone quickly marched to the food tent where they were able to buy beef sandwiches and judge the quality of the beef for themselves. Did I forget to mention that a large percentage of the onlookers were inebriated? It seems fitting because after all, how could anyone think up such a festival sober?

Only four days remain until my trip. The feeling of being overwhelmed is now long gone and a bit of reminiscence has set in. I'm actually going to miss my family and friends while I'm gone. I'm sure the next few days will involve a lot more sad goodbyes (as if there haven't been enough already), but I'm still really looking forward to getting out of this bumming around phase and onto my journey.

Lightning Strikes

Last night, I went out with my friends Kevin and Sofia in Waukesha. On the way home, I was freaked out by the intense lightning storm that was exploding all around me like fireworks on the 4th of July. Lightning was everywhere, and the roads were soaked, but not one drop of rain hit my car.

After I got home, I was wide awake, so I decided to give photographing the lightning a try. It took about 30 minutes before I figured out what I was doing, but I did manage to get around 15 decent pictures. Any thoughts of not taking my camera because of the weight have now been dispelled.

This weekend I am going to my parents' future retirement home in northern Wisconsin for the first time. It should provide a relaxing atmosphere (as if I weren't relaxed enough already after quitting my job) for my last weekend before dealing with the chaotic adventure of world travel for an unspecified amount of time. After that, I'll have just a few more days to say my final goodbyes before leaving. I hope I am ready for this trip physically, mentally, and didn't-forget-anything-ally. Maybe I didn't take enough time off between quitting and starting my trip, but if I took longer, I think I still would be pondering the last-minute things I need to do at 1:00 AM every night the last week before leaving. I guess sometimes if you want to learn how to swim, you just have to jump in.

More Backpack Issues

The other day I filled my backpack for the first time with the stuff I thought I would be taking on my trip. Getting all of my gear into the pack was a daunting task, a battle of wits between myself and an inanimate object. I lost round one due to a disagreement between my sandals and my sleeping bag, but I kept my eyes on the prize, and round two worked out in my favor when I finally managed to squeeze it in all at once. Total weight: 40 pounds. Total room to spare: El Zilcho.

I figured I'd probably want to buy some stuff along the way, so with no empty space, my backpack was too heavy and too full. I took everything out, laid it all on the floor, and meticulously added to the empty backpack only the things I needed to survive. Round three made my backpack light enough to take anywhere with ease. Total weight: 27 pounds. Total room to spare: Enough for a bowling ball. Too bad I gave mine away.

Traveling would have been pretty easy with only 27 pounds on my back, but without a camera or laptop computer, the memories of my journey would escape my head far too quickly. My light- and word-capturing devices and accessories weighed 13 pounds. I deemed these items necessary and added them back in, while leaving out life's little luxuries. The compromise of round four was a clear victory for me. Total weight: 35 pounds. Total room to spare: Enough for a few bottles of tequila and some painkillers for the impending herniated discs.

Today I gave hiking with my full backpack a try. I traversed three miles of roadway in 45 minutes. At the end, my shoulders were a little sore, but my overall condition was surprisingly good. Of course, I was hiking on a flat road at a low altitude. I imagine it won't be so easy when I attempt to hike a vertical mile on uneven rocks in the thin mountain air, but at least my proof of concept was a success.

I think my 35-pound backpack will work out. It may slow me down a little, but I should be able to manage. The best part is that I will be able to take my nifty gadgets with me to capture the greatest moments of my journey for all to see. I haven't even left, yet I can already feel the dew forming at the Gate of the Sun as the crisp morning air whisks away the dark sky of the night, revealing the greatest secret of the ancient Inca world.

Gear Update

On Saturday, I went to REI with my friend Urrv to get some supplies for my trip. I originally went with the intention of getting a backpack, but that didn't work out as planned. I was looking for a large front-loader for two reasons: 1. The ability to lock the zipper would give added security compared with my current top-loader, which doesn't have a zipper for the main compartment, and 2. Being able to load the backpack from the front would allow me to deposit and withdraw my daypack with ease. The store had lots of top-loading backpacks that were very large, but the only front-loaders they had were smaller, and they all came with a small detachable daypack, which I didn't want because I already had a secure daypack. My only two choices were to get something similar to what I already had, or to get something that would be way too small for my trip, so I didn't get a new backpack. I guess I was just being to demanding. However, I did get a new sleeping bag and mat, so the trip was not a complete waste.

I think I now have most of the gear I will need for my trip, other than some clothes. I'm going to try to live out of my backpack, including taking some hikes with it, for a few days before I leave to find out for sure.

Many Goodbyes

My last day of work was very easy. I just had to cancel all of my accounts, sign some papers, and shake a few hands. I was done by 10:00 AM. My area had a picnic afterwards where I got to play some kickball and disc golf, and watch a bunch of *insert adjective here* co-workers tough it out in a game of tug of war . The picnic was a good event to have on my last day because I got to relax and say goodbye to everybody I worked with.

On Saturday, my softball team had its annual party. We ate some good food, drank a few beers, and had some good laughs. I have been told that I can come back and play with them again if I want. Maybe the offer was given because I haven't missed a game or practice in five years. I sure know it's not due to my stellar hitting.

The last few days have been spent saying goodbye to my friends. I still have two weeks before I leave, but having lived in two different states doesn't afford me the ability to have one big going-away party. I'm now back in Wisconsin trying to get everything in order for my trip and visit with the rest of my friends and family before I leave. There will be many more goodbyes in the days to come.