Tuesday, April 24, 2007

South American Adventures- Part 10: Pictures and Postponement

Hola muchachos de Colonia, Uruguay!

I'll be writing a lengthy Buenos Aires update from Ecuador in the next few days, but I have good news and bad news, so I'll keep this brief and spicy. The bad news is that I'm enjoying the travels so much that I've decided to extend my South American stay for an extra month and will now be returning at the end, rather than the start of May. Therefore I won't be able to see your beautiful faces for a few extra weeks...

The good news is that I've finally loaded and labeled most of my pictures from this trip (and a ton from Semester at Sea), which you can view at:


Feel free to comment or hit me back with reviews.
I miss you all like barbeque sauce.

Challenge the assumptions,

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

South American Adventures- Part 9: Braun Brothers in Argentina, Part 1

Hola muchachos de Buenos Aires, Argentina!

After 2 months of traveling solo (with a brief visit from my good buddy Matt Wiggins), I have become accustomed to a certain barebones backpacking lifestyle- occasional showers, rarely done laundry, extremely cheap hostels and even cheaper food... no more with Scott "Scoot-Nuggets" Braun in the mix for a 20-day visit. He arrived toting a new Blackberry, iPod shuffle and Sidekick 3 in the spot where his bugspray should have packed. The fates laughed deliriously and made raincheck plans to mock him for this splendiferous miscalculation... Our first night together we enjoyed another great seder with the Herzberg's in Santiago, and then headed the next day to Valparaiso, a beautiful coastal city which was the former home of famed poet Pablo Neruda. After perusing the insanely cool neighborhood with multi-colored buildings and art galleries, I allowed myself to be taken to the first nice restaurant I'd visited in 2 months. We dined like royalty at a gorgeous high-end bistro with an outdoor patio overlooking the illuminating city lights... Scott chose a fine Caesar salad with duck puree dip for the bread as an appetizer, I went with french fries. The best interaction of the meal came when he asked the waiter, "So these wine prices are by the glass?" and received a shocked response, "Umm no sir, those are by the bottle." Hahaha, welcome to South American prices in the most expensive country on the continent.

The delicious dinner was followed by two brotherly Coronas at a great jazz bar, a good night sleep, and then the 12 hour-bus ride over the Argentinian border (where our bus almost left a bathroom-bound Braun) to Mendoza. We happened upon great timing with Santa Semana, the most holy and celebrated 4-day weekend on the South American calender. Mendoza was a scalding hotspot for university students on break, so we quickly met some great internationals. Our first night in the hostel we engaged in savory conversation with three Californian chicas, self-nicknamed the "Dudettes", and an unintentionally hysterical Georgetown guy named Taylor. The combination of the girls' penchant for saying "duuuuude" and Taylor's statements like, "Oh my god! This ice cream is amazing! Seriously you guys, this is the best day of my life, that's how incredible this ice cream is!" made for a great time had by all.

In our four days inhabiting this splendid city the Braun brothers ate massive Argentinian steaks for breakfast, lunch and dinner at each meal... We're real men, you can check our genetics. The second day in Mendoza we walked the city streets for hours, chilled in the sprawling park, and then headed to a bar and later discotec with some newly made Brazilian and Columbian friends. We were juiced and ready to dance, or as our dad calls his oldschool hip gyrations, "Shake it up." To our dismay, the club transitioned its playlist between awful house music and even worse Argentinian pop songs that everyone but us knew the words to... Awesome. Our diversionary entertainment was provided through a game of "You pick a girl for me to Freak On", wherein we select random lovelies or not-so-lovelies that the other must make feel like a natural woman. The debate still rages, but I think I won... Finally the DJ broke out Usher's "Yea", and from a distance I saw Scott busting some serious A-Town Stomps. Sadly, no more than 30 seconds into the song they cut to "Insane in the Membrane", so Scott gave up on all coolness and broke into a Central Middle School furious dancefancy.

The next day we spent several more hours getting to the know the city streets, had the best steaks of our lives at Restaurant Facundo, and then while changing money at the casino decided to stay for some brotherly debauchery. We hit the $10 peso blackjack tables with a fury rarely seen in the Southern Hemisphere. I immediately became fully commited to drinking as many of the free beers as possible, while dropping lovely comments towards the 50 year-old cougar seated to our right. We were breaking even while I drained brews and dropped ridiculous lines to everyone in sight... It was great. Everyone was having a blast, mainly because the Braun brothers were on absolute fire. The casino owner soon came down to meet the young Americans who had lit ablaze his blackjack room, and offered us the penthouse suite for the weekend and a free dinner the next night with his gorgeous 27 year-old twin model daughters... Okay that last part isn't true at all. What did happen was that I got cut off by the servers for the first time in my life by any establishment... And it was a casino, where they want you to get wasted! We eventually left down $50 combined after hours of fun, agreeing that it was the best time we'd ever had in a casino for such little change. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure the cougar roofied my beers. Like I said, she was diggin my flow!... Still, I respect the move. Damn you classy vixen.

By the way, a random interjection of questionitude- If you had the choice between only being able to wear kitten fur or puma, which would you choose? I'd go with puma, but only because it's the more aggressive of the two felines in question. Sometimes you've just gotta let people know you mean business, ya know? Dave Rocco knows exactly what I'm talking about...

Anyway, the next day we again walked the city through and through before taking the overnight bus to Rosario, a city famed for the beauty of its female population which outnumbers the males seven-to-one. Yup, its a rumored fact, so you know it's true. Let that one swish around the gums for a little bit... Unfortunately, I lost the bus ride gamble as I was seated next to a wickedly diesel bodybuilder whose beastly forearms couldn't help but extend into my personal prism of privacy. The apex of awkwardness was reached right away, as his mini-sleeved tshirt forced his triceps to conspicuously rub against mine because I happened to be wearing a tshit, albeit normal-sleeved, but a tshirt nonetheless. We shifted silently in obvious discomfort with the situation for several hours, until he finally placed a jacket between us and we once again felt like heterosexual men. Within 30 minutes this giant was sleeping on my shoulder, and my heterosexual pride was again stripped... When we got off the bus 14 hours later, Scott immediately told me about his ride- "Dude it was great. I sat next to that cute blond 23 year-old, she was giving me hand massages and shit, it was awesome." Adam 0, Scott 1.

Upon arrival in Rosario we checked into the phenomenal Casona de Don Jaime Hostel, where we were destined for glory. We immediately befriended two of the best characters I've met thus far in my travels- A young Israeli named Doodee who after drinking became a salsa-hipped dancefloor maestro, and a neckless 300lb Peruvian who'd been living in the hostel for a year, everyday wearing a size medium Philadelpha Eagles Hugh Douglas jersey with hot red tightpants and hiking boots. He only spoke in Spanish curses, and fittingly his name was Angel. The date happened to be April 9th, the birthday of our father. In honor of the event, I decided to make it OldSchool Erv Braun Appreciation Day, and therefore shaved down my month-old beard into the rudest mustache you've seen since Erv circa 1986. We spent an excellent day perusing the city with our new friends, and because only four of us were staying in the hostel that night, the two-man staff locked up the restaurant doors and we dined like latin kings on incredible steak, potatoes, veggies, unlimited wine and spiritual lubrication. The Braun brothers agreed that it was the best $3 dinner of our lives... Yet it only served as a mere preface for the day that was to follow.

Our time in Rosario coincided with a wild mosquito epidemic, so it came as no surprise that Scott got stung on the forehead the previous night... The kid's seriously delicious, to insects he tastes like blood-flavored icecream sundaes. What was truly shocking though, was the tumorous forehead lump that developed after the bite. It served two magnificent purposes- 1) To Scott scared shitless because everyone immediately joked in half-seriousness that it was Dengue Fever. His name immediately became "Dengue" throughout the hostel. 2) To provide me with nonstop laughter when looking at the absurdity of my mustached face next to his Dengue forehead. We were in rare form.

So as the hideous brothers awoke the next morning, we were greeted by the news that TV cameras were coming to the hostel that afternoon to interview travellers about their impressions of Rosario. Scott is a natural showman, but his skills were greatly augmented by his Borat-inspired oration that he had been delivering in horribly broken Spanish to every single female we met on the street, regardless of looks, age or Cesarian section scar. He had asked at least 100 women by this point, "Quieres ser mi esposa? Soy de los Estados Unidos, y yo tengo un television." Translation = Do you want to be my wife? I'm from the United States and I have a television. He wasn't getting any yes's, but he was getting many laughs and a few booby flashes... I kid, no booby flashes. So when the cameras arrived it was only natural that he delivered the speech to the people of Rosario while sporting Dengue forehead, and was followed by his brother who repeated the sentiments with a wink and mustached grin.

From there we headed to a waterfront restaurant with Doodee and two local girls we'd met on the busride, and within twenty minutes of being seated, our fire was fanned. A gorgeous female field reporter began walking around our table with her cameraman, apparently shooting a story on the mosquito epidemic. Scott immediately approached and proposed marriage to her, which she refused but let him down softly by insisting she interview us for her story that was going to air on the same station as the Rosario traveler piece. The only day in my life that I'm rocking a gobstopping mustache next to Dengue-horns and we get put on TV twice! The fates are funny I tell you...

The day raged on with our four-man crew of Angel, Doodee, Scott and myself going to an indoor GoKart racetrack. It was clear by the trashtalk that they assumed the races would be competitive, but they overlooked a very small but simple fact. I had a mustache. Anyone who knows racing will tell you that mustaches equal three things- speed, cornering prowess, and a lack of basic education. As expected, I ruthlessly dominated every race and celebrated atop the sweet podium that I previously thought only existed in ExciteBike.

Following the races we looked up at the TV to see our splendid mugs on the nightly news, and once again high-fives and Spanish curses permeated the cool evening air. We then went back to the hostel to eat a big dinner among fellow guests and jammin music. Scott and I were seated next to a 50 year-old German man who was traveling solo in hostels without a word of Spanish knowledge and fronting the most aggressive toupet we'd ever seen. When he said he worked at a paper company I couldn't help but respond with, "Ohhh, Dunder Mifflin?" (If you don't get this joke, buy every episode ever of The Office and watch them consecutively without blinking. You'll thank me, I promise) Scott practically snarfed his drink, and the rest of dinner was littered with immature bathroom jokes that won us no respect from our fellow diners. Still, we made some friends and the German turned out to be a great guy. Plus, Scott got bit on the forehead by a mosquito for the third time in three days. Clearly this was swift justice, Walker Texas Ranger style.

After the comida we bounced to a karaoke bar with our local female friends, and again lit the place on fire. Unfortunately we started slow, as our brotherly duet of "Summer Lovin" with Scott playing the part of Sandy bombed horribly. No one laughed, clapped or even gave us a courteous jazz-snap. The rebound was strong though, as Scott put on an unbelievable show for "Billie Jean" that culminated in him doing a chest-compression dancemove and at least 10 seconds of serious roboting onstage. He later took the mic when a friend struggled and sang "No hablo espanol... No hablo espanol. Quien quieres ser mi esposa. En serio, quien?" The people laughed their drunken faces off, and Scott became the official Diego Maradona of Argentinian karaoke. At this point we could crap gold, especially after befriending some rowdy young locals that were farewell partying for a wild friend who spent 15 minutes trying to pick up an Irish girl through his unintelligably broken English, offering her cocaine he didn't have by singing Eric Clapton's "Cocaine" into her face. "Daaaadaaadaa daaaa, da da da daaa da da, COCAINE!" he'd scream at her from three inches away, until he finally came back to the table laughing in pain, and informed us that the reason she couldn't understand his slaughtered English was because she was a native Argentinian from Rosario. We practically peed ourselves, shook it up salsa-style for a little longer, and then called it an early night at 5:30am.

The next day we bid a sad farewell depart to our great friends in Rosario, and rolled into Buenos Aires. The brotherly adventures have continued in fine fashion since arriving in this effusive city, but those shall be dispensed in the second installment of the Braun Brothers in Argentina emails. Normally at this point I would write a paragraph about some lesson that I've learned via the travels in the past week or two. However, the recent events have taught me one simple creed that all should heed- No traveler should pack a Blackberry instead of bugspray, the decision will always come back to bite you in the forehead.

I hope this email finds each of you filled with health, happiness and fulfillment.

Challenge the assumptions,

Key Trip Statistics
Days- 75
Showers with Heat- 20
Song of Choice- "Highway Patrolman" by Bruce Springsteen. Hauntingly moving song about brotherly devotion. A tip of the cap to Catfish McNamara for this gem.
Book Selection- "Socrates Cafe" by Christopher Phillips
Occupation Given on Hostel Registrations- Highlander
Quote of Note- "It is possible to have too much. A man with one watch knows the time, a man with two is never sure."
Random Person- Heather Weiss

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

South American Adventures- Part 8: Southern Peru & Chile

Hola amigos de Rosario, Argentina... the land of beautiful women and even more beautiful steaks.

Let me first thank the gracious offers that so many of you extended to visit the absurdly fictional town of Picantemanos. Many of you got that it was an April Fools edition, written in South American style (meaning late), but the second update was to see who would really believe in 12-fingered families, alpaca-chase training for mayoral slapping contests, and cocktail umbrella gang warfare in a town called Hot Sauce Hands... Picantemanos is about as real as Harrison Whitman's sister. Special bonus gullible points go out to Donnie Iyamu McGrath, Fernando and Jose Cuartas, Alyssa Dawn McConkey, Dan Rockin Teicher, P-Goo Martin, Jordan Johnson Jhabvala and John Catpiss Chernin. By the way John, I was also the one that bought the advertising space on the Daily Jolt last year to put up that frontpage ad selling your virginity. Happy belated birthday.

Onto reality... There is actually a lot to write about considering I haven't sent a factual update in over two weeks. After leaving Uyuni, Bolivia I did actually head to La Paz for two days. I went there for one reason only, to ride on a bike tour down The World's Most Dangerous Road between La Paz and Curoico. All I knew was that the Israelis refused to go out of fear and that my good friend Noah Marwil had previously written in a Bolivian recommendations email- "The next day was the best. I signed up for a bike ride down a road called "Death Valley". It's beautiful and dangerously sexy. DO THIS." Noah is a true connoisseur with over 23 years of radical experience in "sexy", so with his ringing endorsement I wanted in. What I didn't find out until we mounted our bikes was that over 7000 people have died on the road, averaging about 100 per year, most recently an Israeli tourist just two weeks ago and a Canadian six weeks before our venture... Imagine an SUV-wide dirt and rock path winding through waterfall-laced gorgeous green mountains, with no railing to protect individuals from dropping off the 300 meter edges, and you'll have a vague mental image of the road. In retrospect, it was one of the stupidest but coolest things I've ever done in my travels. The hours of riding were exhilarating, the scenery incredible, and the fact that I survived is probably my favorite part.

From there I took a bus back over the border to Puno, Peru and visited the floating reed Uros Islands of Lake Titacaca. The inhabitants explained that they were too poor to purchase real land and enjoyed the ancient traditional lifestyle of their life on these floating islands which they maintained by constantly adding new reeds to the infrastructure. Another incredibly cool place to see. From Puno I hopped an overnight bus to Arequipa, and went on a two-day tour of Colca Canyon. Thermal baths, condor viewing, delicious food and excellent company made this trip to one of the deepest points on the planet highly enjoyable. I got along especially well with a 50-something American couple who were in their fifth of a planned 25 years of global travel via the small catamaran they sailed around the world. Fucking righteous man...

Upon my return to Arequipa I went out for a great night of drinking and dancing with some Norwegian girls and a hysterical Scottish guy from our hostel. The next day was for digesting Arequipa, which is a truly beautiful city that I highly recommend visiting. The Santa Catalina Monastery is a small city unto itself with intriguing buildings and beautiful tiny cobblestone streets. The walls of each plaza and room are painted brilliantly forceful blues, reds, yellows and creams. Trust me, it's a uniquely amazing place. I normally don't fall in love with churches or museums, but Santa Catalina was brilliant and a great spot to spend a few hours in meditative contemplation and reflection.

Afterwords the overnight bus to Nazca wasn't bad and once there, I was able to sit shotgun in a 6-seater plane riding over the famed yet mysterious Nazca Lines. These are recently discovered lines carved into the salty desert soil, making massive designs and geometric figures when viewed aerially. Among the thousands of shapes there's a monkey, spider, hummingbird, trapezoidal landing strips and even a waving spaceman... but many are dated to about a thousand years ago, and can only be viewed from planes which didn't exist at that time. So these eternal questions remain- Who were these designs made for? What was their purpose? Does Luke Tedaldi really have a ponytail? Wicked cool stuff.

From Nazca I ventured to Ica to grab lunch at the Huacachina Oasis. This is a crazy little lake with surrounding vegetation in the middle of massive sand dunes. The locals say the waters have healing powers, I say the chocolate there tasted delicious. Finally the exhausting day of travel ended with a bus ride to Lima, where I found a great hostel in Miraflores and chilled out until my flight to Santiago, Chile the next day. Unfortunately my flight arrived at 2am, and I didn't feel like entering the city in search of a hostel with rare 24-hour check in. The only solution was to nap in the airport until daylight, which www.SleepingInAirports.com said was a viable option. After eventually finding a dark corner behind the worker's storage area, I hid there discreetly and stole two hours of awful sleep on a hard wooden bench. Three more hours at a breakfast buffet restaurant, eight hours of walking the city center with my big backpack, and I landed at the doorstep of the Herzberg family.

April 2nd was the first night of Passover, so my friend Suz linked me up with a Chilean family who offered to host me for the night and provide a delicious seder. It was honestly the first real house I'd entered in two months, so the wireless internet, hot shower and comfortable bed were tasty luxuries for a weary traveler. The seder was attended by both family and friends of all ages, and the table danced with conversation and song in Spanish, English, Hebrew and German. A highly memorable evening. The next day my brother Scott Scooter Braun arrived...

I know several of you are fiending for some Scoot-nuggets stories, but like any self-respecting author I know the value of a cliffhanger. The next email or two will be fully devoted to the adventurous tales of the Braun brothers in Argentina... And they will be as delicious as the 600g steak that I nearly cried while eating last week because it was so fucking good.
A perfect three-word description of our time thus far would be "Laughter through Wifehuntery"...There is no longer any doubt in my mind that my older brother is certifiably insane, but more importantly, he and everyone around him has a damn funky time reveling in that insanity... myself included.

Finally, the last 10 days, between the Herzberg's hospitality and the arrival of my brother for three weeks of siamese travel, have been saturated with thoughts of family. In my travels thus far I've met some great and some not so great people, but the consistent common denominator has been that those with a strong family base tend to have inherent levels of intuitive morality. They respect the shaded lines between right and wrong. They have open-hearts and kind words for strangers, perhaps because they are ingrained with a certain skew towards positivity that comes from a loving household. That's certainly not to say that those without this family base cannot possess the same character traits; it's just not quite as common in those who were never bestowed with the gift of family life... The ultimate reality is that no one knows your inner skin like your family, and no one deserves more credit for your outer skin than those same people. We often take their sacrifices and love for granted, but perhaps once in a while we should each take account of how important that familial love is to each of us... Gracias mom and dad por todos, and a big happy birthday to my brother Sam Braunlanga, my beautiful sister Liza, and my dad swervin Ervin.

I hope this email finds each of you filled with happiness, health and fulfillment.

Challenge the Assumptions,

Key Trip Statistics
Days- 68
Showers with Heat- 16
Song of Choice- "Speaking of Tongues" by Michael Franti.
Book Selection- "My Losing Season" by Pat Conroy
Occupation Given on Hostel Registrations- Chocolateer
Quote of Note- "Open your eyes and look within. Are you satisfied, with the life you're living?" -Bob Marley in "Exodus"
Random Person- Miss Piggy

Saturday, April 07, 2007

South American Adventures- Part 7: Picantemanos Update

Hola de Mendoza, Argentina!

It seems as though almost all 100 or so of you on my mass email list responded in some fashion to the last email... Apparently it was a lightening rod of controversy and potential tomfoolery, so let me now dispel all myths about my commitment to the people of Picantemanos and their extremely extraordinary extremities. I will be going there at the end of June, and I am sure that the craziness of the experience will leave me a stronger and better person.

To answer the questions-

1) FACT- Alfonso is real. I discretely took a few snapshots of his freak hands, but I forgot my camera cable so I'm unable to load the pics at this time (the same reason why I haven't created an online album with any of the trip's 700 shots). His father, Alfonso, is also very real as are his 12 hideous digits. His four sons, all named Alfonso but nicknamed Zo, Z, Zorge and Zoseph, all possessing normal 5-fingered hands, are great kids. His wife, Alfonsa, happens to be a sweet woman but after witnessing the respect a 6-fingered man receives in Peru, I understand why Alfonso despises the pathetic weakness of Alfonsa's genetic makeup.

2) FACT- The world's first and only cocktail umbrella cartel will become a reality, and it will exist in Picantemanos, Peru. Unfortunately, in recent years the cocktail umbrella business has become a dirty game around here, soiled by corruption and backstabbing... literally stabbing in the back with small, delightfully colorful umbrellas has become a method of persecution by local gangs. The wounds are small and non-life threatening, but it gets the message across when you're lying face down in the mud with cocktail umbrellas sticking out of your back. Yet the proud people will not be intimidated by their weaponry.

3) FACT- The slapping contest with the outgoing Jefe Superior will occur on the Summer Solstice in 2007. Apparently I have to undergo 5 days of alpaca chasing as training before the event because it will exhaust every ounce of energy that I possess. There is no loser in this contest, only two sore-faced winners.

4) FACT- Yes, the closest translation for the spanish word Picantemanos is "Hot Sauce Hands".

To those of you that showed immediate unquestioning support for my becoming mayor of a Peruvian town called Hot Sauce Hands where the people have 12 fingers, mayoral inaugurations include slapping contests, and the biggest problems are dog-shit covered streets and cocktail umbrellas cartels, especially to those that are interested in arranging a summer visit- I thank you for your unwavering commitment to the absurdity of the adventures thus far. I love you the way Dennis Stratton loves bestiality pornography. But please don't change any of your current plans because I'm awaiting to hear back from the outgoing Jefe Superior about whether other Westerners would be allowed to move into/visit the village. When I know more, so will you...

To the rest of you, I still love you, but more in the way Phil Charm loves Lion King... which is a strong devotion, but not nearly as intense as Stratton's insatiable lust for hardcore bestiality porn.

I hope this email finds your day filled with happiness, health and

Challenge the assumptions,

Monday, April 02, 2007

Hola amigos de Santiago, Chile!

Well there's an insane amount that occurred since the last update, but I'll trim the fat and get the filet mignon... the deliciously juice stuff. After Uyuni I headed back to La Paz for a few days, crossed the border to Puno, visited Arequipa and then anticipated spending a few days between Nazca and Lima. Fortunately for all players involved, the good fates blew my sails in another diretion- Towards Picantemanos. Let's take a few steps backwards... On the overnight bus from Arequipa to Nazca I was seated next to a man with a peculiar ailment, or wondrous power, depending on how you view the situation. Alfonso, my seatmate, had 6 fingers on each hand. It wasn't a situation where you would spend hours addressing someone and then suddenly notice; his sixth digit was blindingly apparent from the moment I met the grip of his elephant-hand. The sinewy second-pinky aggressively wrapped around my underpalm, and I couldn't decide whether to giggle or shriek in horror. I compromised by laying an involuntary but extremely soft fart into my leather seat to alleviate the mounting nervous energy. Over the next few hours he kept me enthralled with tales of Picantemanos, his small pueblo in the native Peruvian mountains.

Alfonso possessed a vigorously brooding hatred towards his wife of 32 years, because she had apparently "tainted the sangre pura" of his 6-fingered ancestry. I didn't believe a word of his claims of a 6-finger bloodline. Total crap. But he went on, decrying that not one of his four sons was born with six-fingers per hand, thus shaming not only himself but all of his living relatives who proudly possessed the extra digit... After several hours of conversations and catnaps, we heard a loud pop and the bus came to a slow halt. Broken axle. Shit. Alfonso laughed hysterically at the misfortune, saying that Picantemanos was only a 5km walk away and invited me to spend the night at his home... Of course I jumped at the opportunity, especially after the righteous excellence of my Guatemalan home stay with Joel Puac.

Then magic struck... When I awoke the next morning inside of Alfonso's tiny home, I was greeted by his entire family of "5-fingered freaks". During the day we toured the town, which exports papaya and alpaca wool mostly, but many of the elderly women have created a successful collective of cocktail umbella makers. They spend hours making these decorative miniature umbrellas, but turn a pretty nice profit selling to nearby resort towns... Then around 3pm we went to the bar, and we start to drink. Heavily. The 96% grain alcohol that the Potosi miners consume is also the Picantemanos beverage of choice, so in no time I was absolutely housed. We played a wild drinking game that involved dice, singing and a strange ovational dance to Pachamama, the indigenous Incan G-d who in many parts has been supplanted by some dude named Jesus. In my spiritually lubricated state I explained at length my desire to one day start an NGO that raises money at home and works with local communities abroad to create self-empowering schools of effective education. Alfonso and his compadres sang a loud "Salud!" to the concept, and the snowball began rolling...

It turns out that their annual election for the equivalent of a mayor ("Jefe Superior") was that night, and the entire community was disappointed with the two running candidates- an elderly woman who sold alpaca meat at absurdly high prices because she was the only supplier, and the husband who detested her because she allegedly killed his favorite alpaca without an utterance of request. He was running for the position just to spite her. Spurred by drunken jubilation, Alfonso and the rest of the merry bar patrons suggested I run in opposition, but I obviously demurred. At that point Alfonso's father entered the bar, and was called over to meet the gringo Americano. As I shook his hand, I instinctively felt something strange. When I looked down, I saw it- His 6th finger! The crazy bloodline was true. As the over-powering chills of fate ran throughout my numbed body, I saw the signs very clearly, and without hesitation agreed to run for Jefe Superior. Why not? How many 23 year-old Americans have the opportunity to make a real difference in a foreign community, especially through the position of Mayor?

The town gathered in the outdoor community center, and at that point the nerves started to kick in... My heart was racing, but the grain alcohol Alfonso forced down my dry throat before addressing the crowd helped immensely. I did my best to emulate the "Dwight's Speech" episode from The Office- waving oustretched arms in sweeping motions and pounding alcohol-soaked fists on the table, I felt like an crazed Evangelist. The speech simply restated my desire to empower the locals through education, and also mixed in tidbits about the need to clean up the dog shit that covered the streets, create a cocktail umbrella cartel with surrounding towns, and ended with "Viva Pachamama!" The gente ate it up. Repeated cries of "Con Juntos!", several more devilish drinks, a shouting pair of alpaca owners, and two hours later they informed me that I'd been selected by the community as the new Jefe Superior.

Brothers and sisters, I know this sounds insane, but I really think it's an amazing opportunity that cannot be passed up. I can still travel South America for the next few months because my term begins with the summer solstice on June 21st, so it's an ideal setup. I've emailed my future employer Bain and requested a one-year delay on my start date so I can join with the next incoming class, and I'm preparted to fight them tooth-and-nail to make that happen. The initiation ceremony apparently involves more heavy drinking, a 10 day retreat into the mountains to find guidance from Pachamama, and an absurdly weird slapping contest with the outgoing Jefe Superior... It should be a wild ride, and of course each of you are more than welcome and expected to visit me when I make the move to Picantemanos at the end of June. If anyone is interested in moving there with me (even just for the summer) to help empower a beautiful Peruvian community, let me know as soon as possible and I'll see if I can figure something out...

I hope this email finds you filled with happiness, health and fulfillment.

Challenge the Assumptions,

Key Trip Statistics
Days- 61
Showers with Heat- 11
Song of Choice- Just get the whole Manu Chao Live Album. Do it, do it.
Book Selection- "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera
Occupation Given on Hostel Registrations- Horse Whisperer
Quote of Note- "I like you. Do you like me?." - Borat Sagdiyev
Random Person- Krayzie Bone