He was with me omnipresently, during my sojourns in hippie-thronged Mexico and South America. He abandoned me in North America and in Europe, where nobody can fit so much as a pony-tail into their hectic modern lives, let alone a daily dose of stoned inner peace. But now that I'm in Thailand, I can most definitely say that my old friend Bob Marley is back, and that he's bigger than ever. Bob is, of course, the undisputed king of all Reggae, the mascot of all hippies, and the master of all chill-out music. His red-yellow-green, dreadlock-infused banner flies tall and proud, everywhere you may go in Thailand.
Over the past two weeks here in Sicily, I've met more than my fair share of locals. The main contact has been during my morning visits to the local coffee bars in town — but I've also struck up conversation with them at tourist sights, in supermarkets, and in hotels and B&Bs. Usually, the first thing they ask is: "da dove venite?" (lit: "where do you come from?"); and then when they see my bike, they invariably proceed to give me a wide-eyed stare, and to ask incredulously: "dall'Australia, in bicicletta?" (lit: "from Australia, by bike?"). After about 5 seconds, they realise just how hilarious the notion of cycling from Australia to Italy is — at which point they proceed to burst into laughter, as though it was the funniest joke in the world, and as though they were the first ones ever to think of it. Which of course they weren't, since I hear this exact same joke 10 times every day, and since (therefore) I find it neither original nor amusing at all. After that many repetitions... I'm sorry, but it's just daym lame.
No matter where we go for the day, it seems that every single afternoon here in Boston, my dad and I inevitably end up standing on the same platform in Park Street station, waiting for a train back to Newton Center where we're staying. I can't help but feel really, really sick of this station! The fact that it's underground, ugly, and badly overheated doesn't help either. Every afternoon, we stand and wait for a train on the same Green C line, looking at the same flamboyant posters advertising iPods, hearing the same drone of pre-recorded announcements. I didn't come to Boston to become intimately familiar with Park Street station. I came to see my family.
When I started out on the Santa Cruz hike this morning, I did it with the full intention of doing it alone, and of doing it without any help. Well, apparently doing it without any help at all is simply not how you do it. It seems that, at the least, virtually everyone hires a donkey to carry their gear. For the first hour or so of the hike, I constantly ran into random local dudes leading a bunch of donkeys, who kept asking me: "¿donkey, amigo?". Pretty soon, I got so tired of this, that every time I saw another donkey dude approaching, I just greeted him with: "hola no gracias" (lit: "hi no thanks").
So the class of Amigos week 2 ended up being myself, Debra, Justina, and Dorien. Chrystal and Ricky both moved to individual lessons on Tuesday, Chrystal because she was slow and holding up the group; and Ricky because he has hearing difficulties and needs the personal voice. We learnt a lot, but I'm still desperate to learn more. And once again, next week will be a new class, with me the only old-time veteran.
In Peru, primero de mayo (1st of May) is a feriado (public holiday): it's Dia del Trabajador (Labour Day). So today was very quiet in Cusco. For once, there were very few cars, very few street hagglers, and very few school kids out and about. And not much open. However, I still went to school today, although our classes got moved 2 hours ahead, to a 10am-2pm timeslot. Which was good, because most of us went out partying and drinking until quite late last night.
A new week, a new class, but the same teachers. Today was a bit of a rocky start to the week's lessons. In today's class, we had Chrystal, myself, and a new American couple, Debra and Ricky. However, we were also supposed to have two new French students, Justina and Dorien: but they didn't show up! Or, to be precise, they showed up 2 hours late, and then decided that they were too tired to stay, and went back home. And these are meant to be the new, advanced students for the week. Not too promising, if you ask me.
Over the past week, I've put my usual travel life of uncertainty, adventure, and mobility on hold for a bit, and I'm back in a routine daily grind. It's essential that I do this, in order to spend some time studying and learning; but I sure am glad that I don't have to do it all year, like I've done every year for the past 16 years of my life! It's a good reminder of how much cooler backpacking is than working or studying.
As part of our board at the Flying Dog, we get free breakfast each morning at the D'onofrio café, which is just downstairs. However, D'onofrio's "free menu" is rather limited: either toast and jam; toast and egg; or fruit salad. Since I'm still (trying to) observe Pesach, I can only choose the latter option. And at this point, I'm starting to get sick of it.