Sunara bought a netbook

She unboxed and booted it up while, beside her, I napped in bed. After five minutes of clicking sounds, she asks, "how do I change the wallpaper in Windows 7?"

I rarely have that sinking feeling. But, it followed a vague memory and preceded a web search turning up a blog post from the Windows Team engaging in damage control:

Windows 7 Starter does not include:

  • Aero Glass, meaning you can only use the “Windows Basic” or other opaque themes. It also means you do not get Taskbar Previews or Aero Peek.
  • Personalization features for changing desktop backgrounds, window colors, or sound schemes.
  • The ability to switch between users without having to log off.
  • Multi-monitor support.
  • DVD playback.
  • Windows Media Center for watching recorded TV or other media.
  • Remote Media Streaming for streaming your music, videos, and recorded TV from your home computer.
  • Domain support for business customers.
  • XP Mode for those that want the ability to run older Windows XP programs on Windows 7.

I've suspected she reads faster than me. This time, even though I already knew what was written, I had barely started on the list before she leaped to her feet and shouted angrily while pointing at the brand new netbook now in my hands, "I can't fucking believe that! I am so fucking mad! How can they do that?!"

I shrugged, and said, "monopoly."


Week One

My wristwatch has laid on my nightstand for week. On Saturday, my bag was a missing element of an evening out. I own more than one collared shirt. My pair of Hush Puppies are casual.

The flat is one of ThoughtWorks’ service apartments. It’s mine for a month, or until I move, whichever comes first. Newtown, Paddington, Surrey Hills and Redfern all sound nice.

The job? Obviously, I got it, as they’re putting me up. It’s all I hoped. I want to be all they hoped.

Sydney is new. It’s exciting, of course; but, everything is new. Thursday night held my first bout of loneliness. It passed on the ferry to Manly. Pacing through the full passenger deck, from fore to aft and back again, watching the receding lights of my new city filled with exactly what I think I want: no one I know. My heartbeat accelerated, fueled by all the doubts I left behind in Los Angeles.

I tried to displace them with a narrative of the ferry capsizing. Climbing a lighthouse, an exhausted body found on the rails underneath the lamp. I eavesdropped on a couple of bike couriers sitting on a deck below. I didn’t intrude, avoiding those familiar terms. Instead I resolved to, by the end of the evening, have weekend commitments.

Goals and plans allay me.


Filosofía Existencial

... del ratón borracho

Un ratón cae un día en una cuba llena de vino. En aquel momento un gato pasa por allí cerca. El gato oye el ruido que el ratón está haciendo al no poder salir de la cuba.

“¿Por qué gritas tanto?” pregunta el gato.
“Porque no puedo salir,” contesta el ratón.
“¿Qué me das si te saco?” pregunta el gato.
“Te doy todo. ¿Qué quieres?” contesta el ratón.

“Esto es lo que quiero,” dice el gato, “venir a mi cuando te llamo, venir en seguida.”
“Sí, lo prometo,” contesta el ratón.
“¡Tienes que jurarlo!” insiste el gato.
“¡Lo juro!” exclama el ratón.
El gato saca al ratón del vino y lo deja marcharse a su agujero.

Llega el día en que el gato tiene mucha hambre y piensa en su ratón. Va al agujero y lo llama.
El ratón dice: “¡No!”
El gato le grita: “¡Esa es tu promesa!”
El ratón se sonríe: “Sí, pero hoy no estoy borracho.”



My little sisters’ in Guatemala loved this song. I would sing it for them while playing my guitar, or put it on my laptop and we’d dance for what felt like hours.

It was only weeks later, watching HTV, that I realized they weren’t crazy about the Daniela Romo version but instead the much more recent Fanny Lú cover.

Celos de tus ojo cuando miras a otra chica,
Tengo celos, celos
Celos de tus manos cuando abrazas a otra chica,
Tengo celos, celos,
Cuando te encuentras con alguien,
Cuando caminas con alguien,
Cuando te siento feliz
Yo tengo celos, tengo celos
Jealous of your eye when you look at another girl,
I am jealous. Jealous.
Jealous of your hands when you hug another girl,
I am jealous. Jealous.
When you find someone,
When you walk with someone,
When you feel happy,
I am jealous, I’m jealous.
Hoy quiero bailar solo contigo
Y hoy quiero soñar que tú eres mío,
Hoy te daré todo mi amor en un abrazo
Y tú prometerás que nunca más me harás sentir
Nunca más, nunca más, nunca más, nunca celos (celos)
Today, I am want to dance, only with you.
And today, I want to dream, that you are mine.
Today, I’ll give you all of my love, in a hug.
And you, will promise to, never make me feel,
Never again, never again, never again, never jealous. (Jealous)
Celos de tu boca cuando besas a otra chica,
Tengo celos, celos,
Celos de la noche que comparte tus secretos,
Tengo celos, celos,
Cuando te miro a los ojos,
Cuando te siento a mi lado,
Cuando te veo marchar,
Yo tengo celos, tengo celos
Jealous of your mouth when you kiss another girl,
I am jealous. Jealous.
Jealous of the night that with you share your secrets,
I am jealous. Jealous.
When I look in your eyes,
When I feel you by my side,
When I see you go by,
I am jealous, I’m jealous.

No dejes de creer

E      B                       C#m            A          
Solo una muchacha de pueblito, vivendo en un mundo solitario 
E       B                     G#m               A
Tomó el tren de la medianoche yendo a cualquier lugar

E       B                   C#m               A
Solo un muchacho de ciudad, nació y creció en Sud-Detriot
E       B                     G#m               A
Tomó el tren de la medianoche yendo a cualquier lugar

E              B                 C#m              A
Un cantante en un sala con humo, oliendo a vino y perfume barato
E                      B                   G#m           A
Por una sonrisa pueden compartir la noche, sigue y sigue y sigue y sigue

A                  E
Extraños esperando arriba y abajo del bulevar
A                          E
Sus sombras estan buscando en la noche
A                     E
Gente abajo alumbrado viviendo solo para encontrar emoción
A                           E
Escondiendo, en algún lugar de la noche

E                    B                       C#m           A
Trabajando duro para conseguir mi proposito, todo el mundo quiere una emoción
E       B                                    G#m      A
Pagando cualquier cosa para tirar los dados, solo una vez  más

E                B                 C#m                   A         
Algunos ganarán, algunos perderán, algunos nacieron para cantar el blues
E              B              G#m           A
Oh la película nunca termina; sigue y sigue y sigue y sigue

A                  E
Extraños esperando arriba y abajo del bulevar
A                          E
Sus sombras estan buscando en la noche
A                     E
Gente abajo alumbrado viviendo solo para encontrar emoción
A                           E
Escondiendo, en algún lugar de la noche

E        B         C#m            A
No dejes de creer, aférrate a ese sentimiento
E           B         G#m
Gente abajo alumbrado


I hadn’t seen her nor had she even entered my mind for over half a year. “Ambivalent” sums up how my emotions to her were and still are. But my lips were tasting her neck; her legs wrapped my hips from my lap; both our hands were sliding across the other’s body and pushing our shirts upward to that inevitable conflict of who would be without first.

It couldn’t be real. So, I woke up and opened my eyes to see the beginnings of dawn through my curtains. The lemon tree in the garden silhouetted by the slowly brightening blue sky behind it. After almost two months of preparing for morning classes, I didn’t need a watch to know it was slightly after 6am. What a stupid and responsible time to rouse for my last day in San Pedro.

Trying to carry on dreaming wasn’t working out. The next starred no one but the city of New York and my feelings of loneliness while eternally walking through crowded Manhattan streets. So, I woke up again and instead wrote some e-mails. Writing is always arduous and I’ve got this notion my coterie is also tiring but from my inconsistency.

Nothing to be done but resume skimming whatever I fell asleep to evening before. Really? Simultaneously re-reading Carlyle and commencing on Froude? Fucking UR.

Then the earth began to tremor, harder than I had ever felt, here nestled between dozens of active volcanoes. Minutes passed, and I enjoyed the vibration upon my side through the pliant mattress. “The Earth will swallow us up.”

My language centre is scrambled, tired, and lazy. My American-English struggles against the baroque character of Latin cognates.

Vanessa rapped on my window. Her preparatory sounds had mingled with bird song and tuk-tuk motors for the last half-hour. “Scott?” I put on my blanket, out of decency, before stepping outside to say goodbye. “Keep in touch with us?” “Of course. Have fun at Chichi.” The French guy was waiting at the gate to our garden and home. I waved to them both before turning and returning to my room and bed.

To his groggy disbelief, I rang Sam a few minutes after eight for The Plan. It’s still on. We leave, this morning, for the city.

If I’m going to ride my motorcycle on the dirty Central-American Highway, then I want to be clean again. A few minutes into my shower, I heard Sam talking with one of the kids in my house. I finish bathing and we finished packing.

A guitar, two hammocks, and a sleeping bag were left behind. My compatriot awkwardly humming Eye of the Tiger. Parting hugs and a parting gift. Expressions of fond sentiment and wishes of luck.

Goodbye family Gonzales, and goodbye San Pedro.

We rode off into the mountains.



I’m learning Spanish in a Central American paradise. Yet, my mind won’t stop careening off in different directions. Mostly North and South. Mostly.

This morning, on my way out of the pension, I noticed for the first time the wall-sized map of Guatemala mounted beside the entrance alcove. The definition of the Caribbean coast jumped out at me, and I found myself wondering how I hadn’t realized there was such a large inlet.

Later, while waiting for Sam at the DHL office, I caught myself totalling the number of kilometres I’d traversed since that fateful February. A scribble of zigzagging red lines covering the Mercator projection. A pale imitation of Indiana Jones.

It’s been a week here in San Pedro La Laguna. I’m not at home, but I’m a guest in one. The feeling is different. It’s not the temporary and out-of-place subtext of my last months in the States. And, it’s not the encompassing warmth of comfortable separation that I find in foreign cities.

North or South. I’ll decide in a month.


A Cup's Story

The odor of black bile wafted in with the morning breeze and brought with it the painful memories of a time he thought passed. It had been years, but a happy marriage and children hadn't grayed the images. The pain of bearing scorching liquid; the days, sometimes weeks, of subsequent confinement; the tortured and water choked cries of fellow prisoners desperate for a salvation from the flood.

Service guarantees the tranquility of the Cabinet. When it ends, all who return are new men; and all who return are crippled, sometimes physically unrecognizable, burdens upon their family and friends.

He told his sons he was proud of them. He kissed his wife with the passion of finality. He fixed the scene in his mind: the five of them—his family—standing at the cusp waiting for the inevitable.

"Remember me."


Before You Leave

A year ago, I quit my safe and secure life to see a bit of the world. And where our reasonable degree of patience thankfully prohibits a retrospective, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned. But, please don’t mistake any of the following as authoritative. Well after global oil reserves deplete, the ozone layer dissipates, and the polar ice caps melt away, we’ll still have no shortage of travel advice.

So, before you leave...

Pack light

Palomita In My Backpack (2)

Baggage, in both the physical and emotional sense, is the biggest impediment to new experiences.

Gap years and other periods of life transition are great times to get up and go. When bonds with home are weakest. Significant others, beginning a career, and tackling the financial responsibilities of adult life are the biggest blockers for the young. As time goes on the complexity grows.

Shed or delay those obligations. A minute spent mentally at home takes away hours engaging in the foreign.

Instead, the important duties are keeping your wits, safeguarding your passport, and judiciously spending your money. Those three build upon each other. Anything else can be obtained and any other problem can be solved from them.

Of course, a good backpack doesn’t hurt. But everything past those key three is debatable, because nothing else is strictly necessary.

(What is my minimum? Two changes of clothes, a towel, toiletries, shoes, a water bottle, a sleeping bag, a mess kit, a rain jacket, a camera, a notebook with pens, a deck of cards, and a book.)

Bank smart

The ATM obsoleted the once ubiquitous traveller’s check. But the average checking account has a fee structure crafted to cheat any customer with behaviour outside the norm. This can include an overhead for withdrawing via a third-party, a percentage on exchanging into foreign currency, and a monthly charge for out of country transactions. Research ahead of time!

Plastic money (project365 - 17/365)

Credit unions, virtual banks and institutions that cater to migrant populations (e.g. military families) provide excellent services for wandering tourists.

Regardless of your chosen depositary, forewarn them with an exact itinerary. Then find and save their overseas access numbers. Overzealous fraud departments have a tendency to inconveniently disable cards.

In the end, the best preparation against financial trouble is having options; multiple accounts with multiple cards. Link them together to easily move money where and when it’s needed.

(Which banks? ING and USAA. Additionally, a group of banks including Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, China Construction Bank, Deutsche Bank, Santander Serfin, Scotiabank, and Westpac all waive interchange fees with each other.)

Fly cheap

A one-way ticket between any two major hubs is around $1,000. Keep that much in savings for an emergency. But, getting out should cost a fraction of that.

Use Kayak. It’s the flight finder of the moment. Sign-up for a free account to use their flexible dates feature and check full weeks at a once. Plan at least a month in advance. And don’t bother searching past the window after which prices level off.


Check regional carriers for special deals. In the US, both Southwest and Virgin reserve their lowest fares for website purchases. In the same vein, Emirates wants people laying over in Dubai. RyanAir is a notorious budget carrier in Europe. And EgyptAir took me from Cairo to Istanbul.

Some countries require proof of onward transit and sufficient finances. Or, more often, the airlines require proof as they bear the cost of deportation. Use timatic to find out entry requirements the same way as the carriers. Still, it’s always best to get a visa ahead of time. It’s always worst to buy a refundable ticket and cancel it upon arrival.

(Really, avoid flying. Going overland is far more rewarding.)

Read ahead

Buy a good guidebook. It will be a knowledgeable companion and an unfailing lifesaver. A handy reference for history, highlights, and maps. It’s also the best way to meet other owners of the same guidebook.

Encadré (Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro)

Before going anywhere, exercise due diligence and read up on both Wikipedia and Wikitravel. The latter is far less comprehensive than any good guidebook. But, it’s more up-to-date and is full of odd bits of knowledge.

The Centers for Disease Control and Travel Health Online publish worldwide health information. Get appropriately vaccinated! And carry at least a month’s worth of medication.

If there’s danger, the State Department will know all about it. And notifying them about any imprudent plans will earn a subscription to a Warden mailing list. Pro is advanced notice of the best parties and protests, con is continued notice months after leaving.

Join CouchSurfing. It isn’t requisite to offer up your home, and neither to crash with perfect strangers. Even for the less adventurous, the website is a trove of information. There are groups, forums and events for every sort of traveller in any spot. Helpful members and community ambassadors love to be instrumental in successful journeys.

Ultimately, no source is better than a local.

(Lonely Planet.)

Thanks to Geneva Drouin for reading drafts and suggesting health resources.