Alright, using both our sets of photos, Ashley put together an excellent slideshow. I’ll keep posting some stuff to the blog, but really these pictures and captions tell the trip really well! Click on the title above to get there.
Meet the dogs!
From the top, left to right: Row 1: Orion, Jupiter; Row 2: Lewis, Bones; Row 3: Landon, Moxan (with Ashley).
The way our team was set up, we had two lead dogs, out there in the front together: Orion and Jupiter.
Then we had one “swing” dog, in the middle, which was Bones on the first day and Lewis on the second day (Bones didn’t run with us the second day).
Then we had two “wheel” dogs, the ones right next to the sled. Lewis was there the first day, Landon was there both, and Moxan took Lewis’ spot on the second day.
Orion, female, is one of the oldest dogs in the kennel at 13, but clearly still loves pulling the sled. When we stopped temporarily, we were advised one of us should stay on the brake, and the other go up to the lead dogs to make sure they didn’t turn around and fight with the other dogs in the team. So I would stand by Orion, and pet her and Jupiter. Orion would rest her paw on my boot, as though she had been advised what to do when we stopped as well.
Jupiter, male, just loved to run and be pet.
Lewis, male, had this bark that sounded like laughing, a man going “HAR-HAR-HAR-HAR-HAR, HAR-HAR-HAR-HAR-HAR-HAR-HAR”
Bones, male, was also pretty old, and would stand on the line growling at space. He was friendly when you came up to him, though.
Landon, male, reminded us both of that third hyena from The Lion King, the one who always has his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth. He knew voice commands, so when we yelled “Ready, Hike!” to start, Landon would jump straight into the air at “Ready.”
Moxan, female, reminded me of the squirrel from the Ice Age movies - kinda spastic, always after the nut. If we were stopped, about every 10 seconds she would lunge into her harness, just to double check… Also, she has the most beautiful howl.
Different duties, different breeds
From the photos, you’ll also notice Landon and Moxan look a bit different - turns out there are several different breeds of huskies, and many different types of sledding dogs. Wintergreen maintains the largest kennel of the Canadian Inuit dogs in the U.S., which is the breed that Orion, Jupiter, Bones, and Lewis are: sturdy, the draft horses of the dogsledding world. They don’t go super fast, but they go steady. These dogs have all clearly been selected to “pull” well, but also to be good with strangers.
Landon and Moxan are different. Wintergreen had so many trips going this weekend that they rented some dogs from another musher, and Landon and Moxan came from him. They are Alaskan huskies, true dogsled racing dogs, and as such are built for both power and speed. You’ll notice (either here or in photos to come) that they are much smaller. Moxan definitely has some greyhound in her that really became obvious when she ran. The Wintergreen dogs loved to run, but were used to stopping and starting; Landon and Moxan, though, just wanted to run straight out and keep going, going…
New trip, new set of blog entries. Sure, four days pales in comparison to eight months, but I figured I may as well continue to update this thing as I sporadically take trips. On tap: this Saturday I head to Wintergreen Lodge in Ely, MN, for three days of dogsledding! Hells bells, so excited. I actually learned about this lodge about five years ago on a PBS show highlighting the best adventure lodges in the US. The next morning I called Ashley and essentially screamed “we must do this!” She awesomely agreed. Then we both had stints in grad school, I was always poor, she was out of the country, I was out of the country, but enough equivocating we go now!
Photos and stories to come in the next week!
My Bonderman is over.
Wednesday, June 1, I flew into JFK airport, and on Thursday bussed to Boston. I feel like I should have a grand round-up of conclusions to present to you, but really all I have is an amalgamation of stories and odd-happenings and unconnected thoughts. Perhaps we can share them over a beer or a nice glass of lemonade. I do hope to upload albums of photos, and I’ll list those links on this blog, so if that interests you then stay tuned.
I will say - I am glad to be home. My eight months were wonderful, and it feels like an accomplishment, but eight months of that specific kind of travel was enough for me (which is to say - continuous, constantly hopping countries and languages, alone). I would like to go back to Bolivia. I feel like I shortchanged Peru due to tiredness. So if anyone is interested in travelling to those places with me in the future, or to other locales (eastern europe, anyone?), give me a holler.
In the meantime, I am still travelling, but in the US. Boston now, with the amazing Sarah Wachter. New York, DC, Chicago, Minnesota, Idaho, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle - visiting friends and family, catching up. Enjoying walking down streets with houses and lawns and apartment buildings ordered the way I expect them to be, with familiar trees, familiar smells. It seems amazing that a city I’ve never lived in can actually feel like home, just because I have a good friend and it is in that indefinable and fluid way: American. Home.
upon return to the US (in just 7 days):
- you all! friends! family!
- being able to flush toilet paper, instead of needing to put it in the trash can
- mufflers and emissions laws
- orderly lines
- HOT water showers
- no constant smell of burning trash
- other tall people! I’m tired of being nose and eyes above everyone else.
- Mexican food
- the new Bon Iver album out June 21, the day before my birthday
Still having some issues with photos - the above are photos Dorinda took during my time there. Additionally, here are about 10 from my time in Independencia, via a Picassa web album:
Here again is Dorinda’s blog: http://www.pazabolivia.org/ She doesn’t update super often (internet in Independencia is slow and unsure), but there’s a lot of good info on there and some great pictures!
Going back to Bolivia again for a bit: for 10 days, from April 22 to May 2, I stayed in Independencia, Bolivia, a small town about 8-10 hours by bus NW of Cochabamba, up in the mountains. They were possibly 10 of my favorite days of the entire trip. Before I get into it, here is Dorinda’s blog: http://www.pazabolivia.org/ She has a handy Paypal donation button on there, if you’re feeling inspired; I know that every little bit helps!
Background: Dorinda Dutcher was a Peace Corps volunteer in Independencia, Bolivia; when Peace Corps pulled out of Bolivia in 2007, Dorinda went home, and then came back on her own to continue her work with weavers in Independencia and surrounding rural communities. Essentially, weaving has been a way of life for milennia in these communities - girls would learn the patterns starting at nine or ten years old, when they first started taking the sheep out to pasture. From there, they would learn how to combine designs to make bigger pieces, how to spin yarn, how to dye it, etc. Most of this was done while out with the sheep or llamas or alpacas. However, as more families are moving to Independencia so their kids can go to school, parts of those traditions are being lost. The first to go was the knowledge of natural dyes, of using plants and other organic matter to dye yarn. That disappeard when cheap synthetic dyes became available in the early 20th century.
Over the past few years, Dorinda’s worked on a lot of projects, but she and her primary partner in town, master weaver Doña Maxima, have focused down now to a few key activies: arranging natural dye workshops and excursions to gather dye plants in the rural communities, and a Girls’ Club where Doña Maxima is teaching a handful of teenage girls to weave. That’s the nutshell - for more detail, check out Dorinda’s blog.
My days there were idyllic. I woke up and ate oatmeal with Dorinda, drank coffee on the stoop while watching 4 kittens play in the garden. For 5 days I had morning weaving lessons with Doña Maxima, where she taught me some basic principles and some of the figures they use in their fabrics (the figures are unique to each community, so I learned some from Huancarani, where she is from). I now have a lot of headbands :) Then I would read in the afternoons, or practice, or hang out with the neighbor kids who came to do their homework in the library Dorinda keeps for them. Usually at 5pm, Dorinda and I would go for a walk in the surrounding mountains. Then Dorinda would make dinner, and holy hell that woman can cook. Every meal was delicious. Finally, the last day I was there was essentially the harvest festival, where people bring in their avocados and another thing I can’t remember the name of, to be judged (avocados the size of MY HEAD! heaven). And, Dorinda and Maxima had a booth, where they displayed and sold bags and other weavings, and the girls sold cake and temporary tattoos.
Independencia itself is beautiful, nestled in a valley, mountains rising all around it. Some mornings there was thick mist. Dorinda rents a number of rooms, which are all in a line with the doors facing out onto a little walkway, and then a garden, and then a little ravine, and then a view of the mountains rising up on the other side. Bedroom, kitchen, library, workshop/store, break for driveway, spare bedroom - all the doors exit onto the garden (bathroom onto the driveway). It was just such a comfortable place to be.
And, perhaps most interestingly to me - here was an entryway to a culture! Dorinda and I talked about long-term travel, and moving around so much, and how ultimately you feel like you’re not learning about any place, really, about how it can feel kind of empty. And so in addition to the other cool work she’s doing, Dorinda created the kind of place that she would want to go to. And where I would want to go to! Which is to say - I was able to meet teenage Bolivian girls and chat, and spend mornings talking and weaving with Doña Maxima, because I had the introduction of Dorinda. I can’t imagine walking into a town by myself and immediately having that kind of access. Also, I was able to benefit from all that Dorinda has learned over the past five years, about Bolivian culture and more specifically about small town culture. She’s the one who clued me in to how they share all the time, and it’s rude to say no. We talked about the politics of the town (a lot like small town America, actually, where everyone is in everyone else’s business), about the challenges facing women (so many young teenage moms), how her work interacted with all that. It was just truly wonderful.
I have a bunch of pictures from that time - the weaving lessons, the easter egg hunt we did for the kids (first ever!), the fair, etc. I hope to upload those in the next few days!
Back to Bolivia for a bit: you know how I was all kind of cranky about libraries elsewhere? Well, out of the blue, where I least expected it - Bolivia wowed me with its libraries. It’s not the same as the American tradition, but holy hell they’re doing pretty well.
I first went to the National Library, in Sucre. I just walked in, but they found a super nice librarian to give me a 1.5 hour tour! They have the libraries of some of the nation’s previous presidents, plus a bunch of other rad stuff. Geek out with me for a moment: climate controlled stacks; restoration/preservation studio with the latest technology; digitization studio, because oh yeah, they’re digitizing their entire collection to go online for international scholars. Knocked me out guys.
The other library I went to was the Centro Boliviano Americano in Bolivia. A lot of what the American librarians at US embassies* in South America do is support these biligual centers, which are often inside English schools. So anyway, I just popped in and asked for the librarian, Ruth Tapia, and she was so welcoming! She showed me around (open stacks! open to the public! kid’s corner!), talked about the recent challenge of updating the collection, and how they are the only public library in Cochabamba with both English and Spanish books. Cool lady, cool library. It felt a lot like walking into any neighborhood branch in the US.
So yeah, in a nutshell - I had low expectations of Bolivian libraries based on what I had seen elsewhere, but I was super impressed. Cheers, Bolivia!
*yeah that’s right; don’t forget about the Foreign Service as a career path, kids!
My first day in Peru I spent mostly on the bus. At one juncture, a woman with an aguayo (colorful fabric used to carry things and babies) got on, and her counterpart started calling Asado! Essentially, would anyone like a hunk of steak? I waited for this to be what it usually is, meet and potatoes or rice in a little plastic dish. But nope - the first lady just unwrapped the aguayo and the newspaper within, and started hacking off bits of cow torso with a butcher knife. A highlight.
On my second day in Peru, I got sick. For the first time this whole trip! This is what I get for bragging that I went 8 months without getting laid low. Ugh. I’m sure the roommate I met on the bus was psyched.