Lucia has something to say

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Outdoor Markets

I love outdoor Latin American markets. You can get nearly anything. Fruits and vegetables; used books; clothing and shoes; old postcards; spices; sunglasses; art; toys; and, for tonight, fireworks.

Old men with reedy voices sit on folding chairs. Hip young couples stroll with a thermos of hot water hugged in the crook of an elbow and a maté cup with a silver straw in hand. Families push strollers. Recorded tango music flows on one street, and the next brings a cacophony of bird chirps from birds for sale. And the sun and breeze washes over everyone.

As I was walking, I thought about the New Year when I lived in Ecuador. Water bombs and water were dumped off roofs and out of windows on unsuspecting bypassers. And viejos were created from straw or papier mache...figures of politicians and others that were burned at midnight on New Year's Eve. Both this and the calendar pages are a letting go of the old year, letting it pass to get on with the new one.

And so, to all...

¡Prospero Año Nuevo!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Montevideo, Uruguay

The marido and I had a conversation about whether people know anything about Uruguay. I don't. All I've learned was between the airport and the hotel. Montevideo is the capital. Don't ask me more!

Without googling or checking a book, what do you know about Uruguay? Anything? (Nothing is an acceptable answer. It's mine!)

We got on the plane in Buenos Aires, and it was hot. Not a little hot. A lot hot. Parents were taking clothes off their little kids and babies, putting water on their bodies and fanning them. The flight attendant said until we had clearance to land in Montevideo, they couldn't turn the engines on, and until the engines were on, the AC couldn't go on.

Then, there was a couple in the seats in front of us who just decided they would sit together. (After all, possession in 9/10ths of the law.) This displaced a number of other people, and it was crazy, but in the end, they were permitted to stay in those seats. (I would have moved them if I were the flight attendant, just out of pure annoyance.)

On to a city bus to go to the hotel with my big backpack and no seat on the bus. The driver was bad too, throwing everyone around and out of their seats. Not fun. But now we're here.

There are daytimer and calendar pages all over the sidewalks. I think it must be an end-of-year thing--rip all the pages out of last year's calendar and toss 'em up in the air or out the window. I'd whip my pages out of the hotel window if I had my calendar here, just to get into the spirit of things.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


In Ushuaia. The southernmost city in the world. The end of the Americas. Ushuaia is on the Beagle Channel. Yesterday, took a boat tour on the channel and saw more Magellenic penguins, and a couple of others too. King penguins and some sort of Antarctic variety not often seen here. Saw cranky, sleepy sea lions and rock cormorants (both in photo) too. On the way back to the city, we passed a cruise ship on its way to Antarctica. For a couple thou and unlimited time, you can catch a last minute deal to the bottom of the world. (Unfortunately, I have neither.)

Today did some great hiking in the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Really nice. Big beach glass day. My jeans pockets are sagging here in the cyber cafe. (Not to mention that it´s good to be heading to warmer places soon, since my jeans are about ready to stand up on their own.) The park is a bird watchers paradise. And there are bunnies by the hundreds (or maybe thousands)--black, cottontail, brown. They´re all here in force hopping ´round. It was so wonderful, we may go back tomorrow to do more hiking.

Unfortunately, the zippy l´il camera broke. We´ll look at a cheap digital in Duty Free in Buenos Aires in a couple of days on our way to Montevideo (Uruguay).

Monday, December 25, 2006


So I made it about 7 miles trekking in one day after all. This is the Fitz Roy peak, which cleared for a few brief moments for a photo.

In honor of my mini-trek, had my photo taken next to the town's sign in Chalten, which notes it's the Capital Nacional del Trekking.

Feliz Navidad a todos!

To come: Colony of sea lions...going tomorrow.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Cold Blue Glacier

A jagged blue wall of ice. A delicious crack, like thunder or fireworks, when the glacier calves and chunks of ice splash into the lake. Quite spectacular.

My favorite Spanish-English mistranslation from a sign today noted that the glacier’s discoverer was a “highly steamed investigator.”

Travel. One thing about travel, is that most of what’s familiar is gone–food, a favorite chair, the dog, currency, the car–and replaced with the unfamiliar every day. I try to pack light, which means I wear the same things over and over. My jean have a yellow splotch where I dropped an avocado I was wrenching open with my fingernails. My bag yields gray and black, black and gray. My swimsuit stays crammed at the bottom for warmer days later in the trip. And when I carry my backpack to a bus station, I remember I’ve put some stones inside. Stones, I might say, that I’m not willing to give up. Beautiful flat black rocks that stack into a perfect cairn. Stones that will take me back to Patagonia.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

First Stop in Argentina

It’s inevitable when traveling to hit a low point. We arrived in El Calafate, Argentina, by bus today. It’s a charming town with artesanal chocolate and ice cream, bakeries, cafes and coffee shops. Dogs wander the streets and flop in front of the doors of tour agencies, bookstores, and stores with Gore-Tex gear and hiking boots.

I’m overwhelmed, though, by the options, and much of what’s here is set up for trekkers. I am in mid-life and not fit for trekking. The young and fit gather supplies, and I feel woefully inadequate and, well, old. Shorter hikes are OK, if not too much altitude is involved, but trekking, nope.

My marido’s idea of a vacation is to keep busy, to leave at 8:00 every morning for hiking or sightseeing. Up and at it. Mine is a little slower. I like to take it easy. Sleep in. Read books. Watch the world go by from a café or park bench. So sometimes we compromise. This trip is different from others because I’m not working, and usually when I’m out of the U.S., I am.

The next few days are shaping up to be a short hike (2 hours over rocks) to a really incredible glacier, and then a couple of days for him to do some serious hiking and me to put my feet up and read a novel. It’s hard to come to terms with aging, especially, when in my mind, I’m not much older than the trek set. But in reality, I am, and it’s sometimes hard to come to terms with that.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Leaving Chile

Two days at Torres del Paine National Park in a rented Nissan 4 x 4, avoiding cows being herded down the road. Snow-capped peaks. Pink flamingos in an icy lake. Guanacos (see photo) grazing along the road. Blue icebergs. Andean condors. Waterfalls.

It´s cold so in a fit of ingenuity, I knit myself a headband ear muff and sewed it together using a tweezers since I didn´t have a needle.

Tomorrow we cross from southern Chile to southern Argentina.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Witness to a Moment

Sitting on the rocks with a book, my hair a riotous tangle in the wind, I heard what sounded like a whale expelling air through his blow hole. Were it not for the sound, I would have missed it. A sea lion surfacing and diving. Blowing out and taking in air. Once coming up with a whole silver fish in his mouth. I was the only witness to this moment. And now it is mine and mine alone.

Maggie (who is a wonderful poet) left the most beautiful poem in the comments of my last post. So beautiful, in fact, that I wanted to pull it here for all to read. Thank you so much Maggie.

Wandering souls
more at home
in the far reaches of the globe gathering sea tumbled glass
and communing with penguins.
Speak to the dolphins
synchronous swimming.
Take me there in your journals
Let me feel the ocean loam
and hear the cry of gulls
as the sun sets in your direction.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


I am a happy woman when my pockets are heavy with shells or rocks or sticks. Today, while I waited for a ferry to Magdalena Island, I filled my pocket with beach glass. White and green. Glass tumbled in the sea.

We boarded the ferry to head through the Strait of Magellan for the 2 hour trip to the island, finding a place on the floor of the deck outside to sit and watch the waterscape. For a short way, two dolphins swam alongside the boat.

There were thousands of penguins on the island. On the rocks by the beach. On the grass. In their burrows (who knew they burrowed like gophers?). With their fluffy gray youngsters. Swimming in the water. Always looking like with one wrong step, they will tumble over.

It’s not a good idea to touch them because they can bite, but they turn their heads back and forth, sort of like dogs do when they’re trying to listen. So, if you look one in the eye, and tilt your head left and right, the penguin will swivel and twist his neck in the opposite direction. When things are going well, you can both be tilting back and forth for a while, until one of you gets tired.

It got dark around 10:45 tonight. Tomorrow we go on a tour to a fort, but what I’m really looking forward to later in the day is a trip to the cemetery.

At Long Last in Patagonia

The marido and I are kickin' it in southern Chile. It took as long to get here as it did to get to Nepal. Flights were late all the way, which gave us some unexpected time in Santiago (not a bad thing on a beautiful summer day). We hopped on a bus at the airport and went downtown during a layover.

Augusto Pinochet died this week. His dead face, pasty and white, is plastered on newspapers and magazines. I expected to see some change (I’m not sure what), but things felt the same as when I was here in 2003, ordered and clean. The statue of Salvador Allende near La Moneda sparks with a little color. It’s adorned with carnations and gladiolas, love letters, poetry, and political statements, taped on in remembrance. His ankles are covered with masking tape holding on a small bouquet that reaches his knees. Chile, I think, is poised to move on.

This afternoon we’ll get a boat to Isla Magadalena where a colony of 120,000 penguins live. Hopefully some of the fog and rain will clear a bit. We don’t depart until 4:00, and it looks like it stays light until well after 10:00.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Founder Travels to South America

Madison, WI: The Something to Say Blog Management Group has legally abdicated all responsibility for regular posts during Lucia’s said vacation to Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay, and takes no responsibility if she strays into Paraguay or other parts unknown.

Management said, “She’s been known to be unreliable while traveling–she either posts every day or two or not at all, claiming problems with internet access.” When asked whether there would be posts from Punta Arenas, Montevideo or Igauzu Falls, management replied, “No comment.”

During the press conference, one manager mistakenly believed her microphone was off and was heard to say, “She just better not come back into the office with those dirty hiking boots again...or with a tan.”

Something to Say Founder Lucia was unavailable for comment, citing pre-travel responsibilities.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Public Accountability

On a cloudy day, after a vicious virus kept me up all night, I've drifted in and out of sleep today, listening to the news.

I don't read as much as a could (or maybe should) about what's happening in the world. I tend to pick up information on the ground--from friends in Nepal, from taxi drivers in Kenya, from my co-workers, some of whom absorb considerably more information than I.

After listening to the radio (both consciously and subconsciuosly), I'm really angry (no, pissed off!) about a lack of public accountability.

Augusto Pinochet dies living a comfortable life in his homeland at the age of 91, even though he he was responsible for tragic torture and murder of Chileans. Where is the public accountability?

BushCo gets us into a war, lies to us, and he is still in office. Where is the public accountability?

The CIA was tapping Princess Diana's phone because of her work on land mine education. Land mine education! What's subversive about trying to children, women and men safe? When did humanity become a crime? Where is the public accountability?

I feels to me in my weakened state that there isn't accountability. And what pisses me off most is that I feel it's infinitely out of my reach to do anything about it. Personally, we'd be convicted if we participated in these activities with our neighbors and acquaintances. Where is the public accountability?

No doubt, I will drift off to sleep again now. I must get well and do an enormous number of tasks before heading to Chile in a few days. (So, I'm learning a little more. First Chile, then Argentina, and then maybe Uruguay?)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Reflecting on Marigolds

I've always thought of marigolds as lowly annuals my mother planted as borders. A common, humble, dull, pathetic flower. A flower to be planted in straight lines in the summer garden.

Traveling has changed the marigold for me. I can now see the richness of its color and its beauty in a garland.

In India and Nepal, offerings of marigolds fill shrine niches and drape figures of Hindu gods. Marigold garlands, both fresh and dried, hang in swags on houses and businesses. They collect in the cracks on the streets, adorn weddings, and accompany the dead.

Day of the Dead altars in Mexico are strewn with marigolds. Symbols of grief and prosperity. And I read that early Christians placed marigold (Mary's Gold) garlands near statues of the Virgin Mary.

While I'm stepping through the snow in my back yard, I'm looking at the garden. Next summer, I'm going to plant lots of marigolds.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

To Dance

"If I can't dance I don't want to be in your revolution." -Emma Goldman

I spent a good half hour this morning dancing. To Mike Doughty and John Mayer. I had a good time.

When I was a girl, I danced endlessly around the house. This was not encouraged by my mother...or my father. How could this girl who dances be theirs? After me, they had sensible sons, who collected baseball cards and could fix things.

I danced in Nepal, and my Nepali friends said, “You dance like a Nepali. How did you learn that?” They don’t know that this happens most places I go. When I was in Cuba, I was told I dance “Cuban.”

It’s very simple really. I have a good sense of dance. And watching others dancing for a few minutes gives me enough to mimic and embellish the local moves. My fascination with Bollywood dance probably stems from this too. To watch. To move.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rock the Casbah

The holiday office party. At the Casbah. Dinner and drinks. Dolmades and falafel. Hummus and baba ganouj. Spanakopita and pita. The conversation swirls around to how exciting Madison was in the 1960s, to what dog parks we visit, to designing tattoos and to travel.

One conversation stands out from the rest. A co-worker’s wife told me about her 70-year-old mother who has most recently been in Kuala Lumpur. Her mother keeps traveling. She sleeps in bus stations. She has her pack down to 15 pounds and no more. And I thought, “She’s my kind of woman.”

It’s good to have role models for the future, to mark the point to which we’re headed, to show us that we can keep on going on our paths. For today, she is my spot on the horizon, where I want go. I have a real fear of aging. Of its limitations. Of closed doors and lost opportunities. Of endings rather than beginnings. But sometimes, there’s a crack in that door and the light shines through, and I hear about someone who delights and inspires me to look forward with energy rather than fear.

And a Thursday morning addition: After listening to half an hour of news on NPR, I realized I didn't want to start my day thinking about war, so I flipped it off, cranked Mike Doughty's Looking at the World from the Bottom of the Well, and feel much better prepared for the day after a good dance. "That Cuban girl...That brought me low...She had that skin so fine and red lips rose-like now...Her mouth was wide...And sweet as well...And now relentless hours of dreaming up her smell..."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dog Days

Corgis need to stay busy. Very, very, very busy. So I imagine my dog, during the day, herding his stuffed animals or marching around with the recycling container on his head or making a fort out of a blanket.

In reality, he is doing this.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Holiday Ornaments

I put up my tree early this year. The ornaments are like the rest of the stuff in my house – from everywhere. They remind me of my travels. There are capiz shell ornaments from the Philippines, embroidered hemp from Vietnam, carved safari animals from Kenya, decorated gourds from Peru, and all sorts of things from India.

These are masapan ornaments from Ecuador. We often get samples at work of things for our catalog. These are samples which set me off laughing every time they swing ‘round on the tree. Nothing like an ornament that will flash your friends. Needless to say, we did ask for some modifications.

Runners up in the goofy product category - a clerical stole that looked like it was created in homage to ZZ Top and a little piece I call Jesus on the half shell.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Travel Section

Settling in with the travel section of the Sunday paper, I scanned an article about Ushuaia, the southernmost point in Argentina and the southernmost city in the world. There’s a big picture of snow capped mountains behind a colorful city perched on the water at the end of the continent. It’s touted as a jumping off point for Antarctic expeditions and exploring Patagonia, a good place to drop out of life, eat king crab, drink Pisco sours, and grab a latte. It’s springtime there now.

I’m leaving in a couple of weeks on a trekking/hiking trip to Tierra del Fuego that I didn’t plan and haven’t really thought about much. I dug out my flight itinerary, and there, on page 2, is a Christmas Day flight to Ushuaia.

The Buddhas, handmade paper notebooks, copper vase, Christmas baubles, and gifts are not yet unpacked from Nepal. Brochures from museums, work notes, Nepalese rupees, and my mail clutter my dining room table. My travel companion is in Venezuela observing today’s election and will have even less turnaround time than I.

Today I made no progress on unpacking and organizing as my jet lagged body demanded rest.

Soon I’ll begin moving things from one bag to the next, swapping out shoes for hiking boots. Keeping my passport, flashlight, and shampoo handy for my next flights, which look like Chicago to Miami, to Santiago, Chile, to Punto Arenas to Ushuaia, and then in and out of Buenos Aires to Iguazu Falls, spectacular, huge, tropical, wild waterfalls on the border of Argentina and Brazil that led Eleanor Roosevelt to say, “Poor Niagara.”

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Out of Context

I am out of context. Out of step. Out of time. Out of synch. Wanting Bollywood videos. Bollywood Barbie. Bollywood Bride. Missing traffic. Traction. Travel. Wishing for gardens in the cool night. Everest beer. Roaring fires. Snow-capped peaks. Architecture. Sculpture. Kathmandu. Patan. Bhaktapur. Carved wood. Carved stone. Carved lives. Did my friends fall in love or were their marriages arranged? Vivid vermilion marked foreheads. Vishnu. Anonymity. Altruism. Annoyances. Imperfections. Recklessness. Fecklessness.

When I am out of context. Out of step. Out of time. Out of synch. I yearn. And am left yearning.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Missing Kathmandu

I'm back and already missing Kathmandu. Jet lag is generally worse going east, so I'm anticipating needing a few more days to recover. I left Kathmandu Thursday and stayed overnight in Bangkok. Then I had one of those mega-long calendar days. Seven hours from Bangkok to Tokyo, and another 11 from Tokyo to Minneapolis. One more short flight and I'm home now. Jet lag is supposed to take about one day per time zone, but I've got no idea how many time zones I've crossed and am not sure I want to know.

Manifestations of Mourning

A good friend of mine in Nepal (who, I would mention, is a real inspiration to me) was wearing a cap every time I saw him. I noticed he was going a little salt and pepper in the back, and thought perhaps he was balding or graying at an alarming rate. I learned after spending some time with him that he is wearing a cap because his father died two months ago, at the age of 86, and following tradition, my friend shaved off his hair and is a bit self conscious about it. If he follows tradition, he will shave it once a month for the year. He also will not drink alcohol or eat meat for that year.

If he were following full mourning protocol, he would not eat onion, garlic or tomatoes, and he would wear white for the year. (Red for weddings; white for mourning.)

Having lost both of my parents, I understand the weight of this loss and wish culturally that I had had ways of expressing the grief...of something being physically different in accordance with my loss.

I fully believe that in nearly every circumstance, there are many ways to do things. This, I think, is a better way.