What am I doing here?

What are you doing here? What is anybody? It is a question I keep asking myself, increasingly more frequently with each passing day – a question to which I cannot find a satisfactory answer.

At some points in my life, I think we are here just to be happy. On those days, I am perfectly content to go out and do whatever pleases me – be it going out with my friends for an evening of merrymaking or buying myself an overpriced pair of shoes or even calling in sick to work for the heck of it. If the purpose of life is to be happy, I’m going to be happy or die trying.

Or so I tell myself.

Because sometimes I wake up and feel this vast emptiness, this hollowness that no amount of merrymaking or overpriced shoes or sick days could take away, this void crying out to be filled with something more than just my own egocentric whims and fancies. The feeling that all of this is pointless, is meaningless, is futile at best and devastating at worst becomes overwhelming and I just want to put my head in my hands and weep.

We think that we humans are somehow better off with the capacity to think, but perhaps less intelligent beings hot the better deal in the evolutionary (or creationist?) toss-up. Not having to wonder if any of this makes sense or means anything sometimes seems wonderful, compared to the torture of Thursday afternoon existential crises or Sunday evening conversations with your conscience.

Oh to be a dog and to love freely and unconditionally.
Oh to be a cat and not care if you are loved freely and unconditionally.
Oh to be an eagle and to soar over oceans and continents.
Oh to be a tortoise and carry your home on your back.
Oh to be an elephant, an ant, a crocodile, a platypus.
Oh to be a human.

Strange, isn’t it. How being a human is so very different from being human. Yet who can definitively say what it means to be human? Is there even one thing, one action, one emotion that makes us human? I don’t know. And I don’t believe anyone who claims to know.

Well, then, what resolution do I have for the questions I asked? What am I doing here? What are we doing here? Perhaps the question isn’t really what we are or are not doing here, but what we should be doing.

Perhaps.

I thought that writing this, putting my thoughts to paper, sifting through the chaos in my mind would help give me some clarity. But I remain just as confused (conflicted?) as I was before.

So, what now?

 

Empty São Paulo, Brazil, March 2014

Empty
São Paulo, Brazil, March 2014

7 Things for Travellers to do on Mondays

Anyone who’s ever been on holiday would know (or maybe I am the only one who is peeved by such things) – things don’t work on Mondays. All major tourist attractions, parks and museums seem to be closed on Mondays, probably because they stay open on Saturdays and Sundays to cater to the weekend warriors. And this is especially true for smaller, less frequently visited cities (or, if you’re in Brazil/ South America, all cities). So, if you’re like me and keep forgetting this, you’ll sudden to find yourself with almost nothing to do on a Monday.

But wait! After sitting and thinking about this (on a Monday, no less), I’ve come up with a list of things you, the eternal traveller, can get done on Mondays without feeling like the entire day was wasted.

1. Send a postcard

I'd like to get postcards too, but nobody knows my address

I’d like to get postcards too, but nobody knows my address

What better way to make your friends jealous than by sending them a postcard from a wonderful tropical paradise in the middle of winter, or a delightful ski resort in the scorching summer? No, but seriously, if you’ve been away for a while, your friends would appreciate your gesture, and besides, who doesn’t love getting post that’s not a bill or a bank statement? Good for us travellers that postal services tend to be fully operational on Mondays! But be warned – lines may last hours, and your postcard may sometimes arrive after you do!

2. Get lost

Secret view of the sea when we got lost (accidentally on purpose) on the trail to Pão de Azucar Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 2014

Secret view of the sea when we got lost (accidentally on purpose) on the trail to Pão de Azucar
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 2014

Travel is about exploring new places, and some of my own best experiences have been when I took a wrong turn and inadvertently ended up at the best little restaurant with delicious homecooked food, or met a delightful stranger and chatted for hours, or just found the most perfect view. Getting lost in a place is one of the best way of discovering a city unencumbered by maps and must-see attractions. And when you have nothing better to do, why not get lost and add a little excitement to your mundane Monday?

3. Read.

My (almost) untouched travel companions

My (almost) untouched travel companions

Or write, if you so prefer. We all do this. Bring along a book (or notebook) on our trip, telling ourselves we’ll read the novel (or journal our adventures) on the plane/at the beach/before bed, only to bring the book (or notebook) back home at the end of the trip, untouched. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of being somewhere new that we sometimes forget to relax and unwind. Use Mondays as a day to read, reflect and just enjoy the place you’re in.

4. Go to the beach

Beaches are great, even in stormy weather Cabo Frio, Brazil, Mar 2014

Beaches are great, even in stormy weather
Cabo Frio, Brazil, Mar 2014

And what better place to do #3 than at the beach! If you happen to be near a coast, Mondays are perfect days to work on your tan while catching up on reading. With no opening (or closing) hours, beaches are perfect places to spend nothing-to-do Mondays. An added bonus – beaches are usually completely deserted, meaning you have gorgeous views and sandy expanses all to yourself, without wailing children ruining the perfect sound of waves breaking on the shore.

5. Take a long bus/train ride

21hour bus ride madness - bring it on Vitoria, Brazil, April 2014

21hour bus ride madness – bring it on
Vitoria, Brazil, April 2014

Travelling across South America, I’ve taken more bus rides lasting upwards of 6hours than I care to count (as I write this, I have a 21hour bus ride lined up tomorrow). While most of these have been overnight buses (save on the cost of one night’s accommodation!), I’ve also missed out on some supposedly spectacular views. Supposedly because I didn’t see them, duh. Scheduling a long bus or train ride on a Monday will help you avoid wasting the day, and on Tuesday, you’ll be ready to explore your destination without suffering from traveller’s fatigue.

6. Laundry

Lavanderia:  wash and dry for MAX clean

Lavanderia: wash and dry for MAX clean

As unromantic as it sounds, it is a fact of life – laundry needs to be done. And thankfully, laundromats not being any sort of tourist attraction, tend to be closed on the weekend and (yay!) open on Mondays! Especially if it’s one of those self-service laundromats that require you to keep careful watch over your clothes and transfer them from the washing machine to the dryer, you can easily kill a few hours getting your laundry done. So get your laundry done on a Monday, and enjoy smelling like fabric softener for the rest of the week!

7. Use the Internet

Not my picture, but that's the kind of computers I have to deal with here Photo credit: http://www.negros-island.com/negros-oriental/tourist-spot/mabinay-internet-cafe.htm

Not my picture, but those are the kind of computers I have to deal with here
Photo credit: http://www.negros-island.com/negros-oriental/tourist-spot/mabinay-internet-cafe.htm

Probably one of the things I’m horrible at doing is updating my blog and uploading pictures. Mondays are good days for doing this – hole yourself up with a nice cup of coffee at a cafe with decent WiFi with your laptop and spend a couple of hours organizing your virtual life. Or, if you don’t have a laptop, like me, just head to a nearby Internet cafe to sort through the million pictures you’ve taken and upload the best ones. It’s a also a good time to add some new tunes to the music machine or a download a couple of articles to entertain yourself during your super long bus or train rides. P.S. If the place you’re at has photo-printing services, take advantage of that to print some photos out to send as postcards – they’re more personal and probably cost about the same as a regular postcard!

So there you have it. Some things to get done on the worst day to be a traveller: Monday! Not everyone needs to hate Mondays!

The Charm of Cordoba – QUE LINDO!

20 Jan 2014 – 29 Jan 2014

Another (it seems like I take an infinite number of these) overnight bus later, I was in Córdoba! I made my way to my host Gabi’s house, where she, Raquel and Pablo were anxiously (because I was slightly late and Gabi had to give me the keys before she went to work) awaiting my arrival. A brief introduction later, Gabi was off, leaving me with Raquel and Pablo who very kindly took me out to the city center to show me around.

Paseo de las Flores didn't have many flowers, sadly Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Paseo de las Flores didn’t have many flowers, sadly
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

We walked around for a bit, looking at this

Downtown Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Downtown
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

and that,

Church! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Church!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

but because it was a Monday, practically everything was closed.

Except this one church Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Except this one church
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

We could even go up! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

We could even go up!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

It was still pretty nice, walking around, and seeing the cool buildings Cordoba has. Except for the blistering heat, which put everyone in a kind of stupor, so after a light lunch of humita empanadas (super yummy, with corn) we headed back for a nap, with the intention of going to the swimming pool to cool off. Apparently, everyone in Cordoba had the same idea as us, because when we got to the pool, it was packed. It was still nice to be able to spend some time languidly relaxing in the (sorta) cool water for a bit. It was just as hot in the evening, so Gabi, I and some of her friends just hung out on her balcony, not doing much and trying not to move too much. It was a good way to spend the evening.

New day, new adventure! I asked Gabi and Raquel to suggest a place for me to chill out and escape the heat and their recommendation was to go to Cabalango, about an hour outside of Cordoba city. It was a little troublesome to get there – I had to take a bus to another smaller bus terminal in Carlos Paz, and then change to a bus to Cabalango, but obviously since the buses don’t have any regular schedule, what should have been an hour’s trip took more like two hours. Well, no matter, because I eventually made it to Cabalango and it was beautiful.

Absolutely gorgeous Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Absolutely gorgeous
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

A lovely river running through rock formations that created little natural pools, perfect for swimming and wading and generally just relaxing.

Que lindo, que calor! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Que lindo, que calor!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

It was exactly what I needed to get away from the oppressive heat of the city, and I even caught up on some reading.

Fishing lessons! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Fishing lessons!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

After that, it was back to the city to go for Raquel’s birthday party!

Feliz Cumpleaños Raquel! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Feliz Cumpleaños Raquel!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

It was really nice, meeting some of their friends and chatting, and I really hit it off with Karen, Gabi and Raquel’s Dutch flatmate. We just kept giggling about the Argentinian penchant for saying things like QUE LINDOOOOO (used to describe anything that’s marginally nice, except for food or drinks, in which case it’s QUE RICOOOO) or MI AMIGOOOOO/ MI AMOREEEEE (to complete strangers). Quite amusing, really, these Argentinians. But I love them anyway (:

Wednesday was supposed to be free museum day – all the museums in Cordoba are open to the public free of charge, and I had planned to go with Karen and her friend Debby to visit some museums. But apparently, in summer, the museums all have weird opening hours, and they were ALL closed from 1-6pm. -_-

Only taxis and tourists can turn right. Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Random sign of the day: Only taxis and tourists can turn right.
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

I ended up having a lovely lunch with Karen and Debby anyway, and then heading to an Internet cafe to upload and download pictures and stuff like that. Dinner was a fun affair, with Karen cooking a nice pasta dish, and their friend Lyss making a typical Brazilian dessert, the brigaderio. Yummy stuff.

Dinner friends! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Dinner friends!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

The next day was a trip to a tiny little town outside of Cordoba called Colonia Caroya to hang out with another CouchSurfer who had very kindly invited me to his home which had a…SWIMMING POOL! Awesome awesome awesome respite from the crazy heat.

Random picture of Coroba, because I apparently did not take any pictures of Colonia Caroya Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Random picture of Coroba, because I apparently did not take any pictures of Colonia Caroya
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

I realize I have been talking about the heat without mentioning how hot it actually was – 45 to 48 degrees in the day, 32-35 degrees at night. And I thought Singapore was bad. It just goes to show, eh?

Even the river Cañada was kinda not river-y Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Even the river Cañada was kinda…not river-y
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Anyway, it was nice, just hanging out and chatting with Gabi (I know, it’s weird – both my host in Cordoba, and this CouchSurfer in Colonia Caroya were called Gabi) and relaxing in the pool. In the evening though, there was a MASSIVE thunderstorm with pouring rain, howling winds, and the works. Absolutely insane, but so beautiful and such a welcome change from the heat.

Rain is coming. Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Rain is coming.
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

However, when I woke up early the next day with the plan of heading to Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito, it was a ridiculous 15 degrees out. -_- I was so tempted to go back to bed and stay warm, but decided to brave the cold in the hopes of seeing some condors. Getting there was a bit of an adventure too – nobody I asked knew how to get there, except for the last lady I asked who told me that buses ran from Carlos Paz to the park, so I took a bus to Carlos Paz, only to be told that the (only) bus to Condorito was full. Thankfully, there was another bus company that passed by the park as well, and while the bus was full, the guy sold me a ticket to stand the entire hour and a half ride. When I got on the bus though, the bus still had a couple of empty seats, and I managed to find a seat! Yay!

So. After a beautiful ride through the sierras of Cordoba, the bus suddenly stops along the side of the road and the conductor announces the stop for Condorito. It was quite frankly, the middle of nowhere. But there was a dirt road leading off it, so I started walking down it. It was really really really cold and I was shivering, despite having a jacket and tights and my boots on.

Black cows glared at me as I passed them on the way to the entrance of the park Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Black cows glared at me as I passed them on the way to the entrance of the park
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Ten minutes after I started walking though, a random car stops and offers me a ride to the actual entrance of the park, two kilometers down the road, and I jump at the chance to get out of the cold. Lovely lovely people of the world. ❤

After arriving at the entrance of the park and being briefed by the park rangers about the trail, I set off. Very easy trail, with some amazing views.

VERY easy trail Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

VERY easy trail
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

So...which one was the road not taken? Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

So…which one was the road not taken?
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Definitely worth the walk, and the weather was absolutely perfect, without the sun blazing down on me, and a very comfortable breeze to keep me cool.

Snakes and pumas! i didn't see any :( Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Snakes and pumas! i didn’t see any 😦
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Wow view Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Wow view
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

The skies just added to the beauty of the landscape Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

The skies just added to the beauty of the landscape
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

I was in awe Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

I was in awe
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

I didn’t mange to see any condoritos (baby condors) learning to fly, but I spotted a couple of condors, which was pretty cool.

No pictures of condors, but here's a picture of me! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

No pictures of condors, but here’s a picture of me!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Rio Condorito was also really cool, although I imagine it must have been more beautiful before erosion colored the water a horrible brown at some points.

Rio Condorito Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Rio Condorito
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Rio Condorito, looking less brown Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Rio Condorito, looking less brown
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

After that, it was time to hike back to the entrance

And take a selfie in the middle of the grass Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

And take a selfie in the middle of the grass
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

and hopefully catch a bus back to Cordoba. The bus schedule at the entrance said that there was a bus I could catch within a decent amount of time, but I ended up waiting for more than half an hour in the cold, with the vicious wind stripping me of any heat, before I gave up and decided the bus wasn’t going to come anytime soon, and hitched a ride to another town slightly further away from Carlos Paz. Yay for getting home safely!

It was a fun dinner after that with Gabi and some of her friends, who had come over. We made pizzas, and played charades (in Spanish!) and generally had a fabulous time laughing and talking and making jokes and being silly. (: great company, really!

Dinner friends II Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Dinner friends II, featuring onion pizza!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Saturday was a day for chilling out and relaxing. We all woke up late, slacked around the house for a while, before I finally decided to get out of the house and go wandering around. I wandered around the downtown area for a bit,

Young artist at work in the park Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Young artist at work in the park
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Colourful rings mark 200 years since the Revolution Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Colourful rings mark 200 years since the Revolution
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Monument to global warming? Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Monument to global warming?
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

had an excellent (and cheap) lunch, before heading to Paseo de Artesanos to look at the handicrafts for a bit.

I also managed to find a guy to set the quartz Johana had given me in a pendant which now gets me lots of compliments haha (: thanks Johana!

Setting my quartz in a pendant Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Setting my quartz in a pendant
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Back at home, we watched half of The Internship before the video stopped loading and we couldn’t watch any more. -_- so if anyone has the second half of the movie, please let me know.

Sunday! A day to do nothing, or to escape somewhere else. I decided to visit Capilla del Monte and San Marcos Sierras and stay the night before coming back the next day. I set out relatively early and navigated the complicated bus system to arrive at Capilla del Monte around midday.

Tree of knowledge...or directions Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Tree of wisdom
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Cute tree lady in Plaza San Martin Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Cute tree lady in Plaza San Martin
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Cactus sale! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Cactus sale!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

I found a cheap hostel and headed out to visit El Zapato (“The Shoe”)

Argentinians (or Dona Maria) have sasssss! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Argentinians (or Dona Maria) have sasssss!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Llamas chilling Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Llamas chilling
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Gorgeous bird in a cage :( Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Gorgeous bird in a cage 😦
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

 

El Zapato! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Finally, El Zapato!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

and Dique El Cajón.

Dique Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Dique El Cajón
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

It was super fun climbing over the rocks and huge stone formations.

Rocks, rocks and more rocks! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Rocks, rocks and more rocks!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

This rocks. Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

This rocks.
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Spiritual spot Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Spiritual spot
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

There were also some pretty great views – I was super happy I had decided to make the trip down.

Super gorgeous view Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Super gorgeous view
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

iRock! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

iRock!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Beautiful view Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Beautiful view
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

I need a wider vocabulary to describe this beauty Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

I need a wider vocabulary to describe this beauty
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

On the way back to town, I saw a sign pointing to paradise (El Paraiso) so I decided to check it out. Turned out to be a little slice of heaven tucked away at the end of a dirt road.

Paradise is a place on Earth Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Paradise is a place on Earth
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

I wouldn't mind spending the afterlife here Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

I wouldn’t mind spending the afterlife here
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

I would have stayed longer, but there were no street lights and I didn’t want to have to find my way back in the dark.

Evening stroll under a the longest (or first) covered walkway Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Evening stroll under a the longest (or first) covered walkway
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Capilla del Monte is also famous for UFO sightings, apparently Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Capilla del Monte is also famous for UFO sightings, apparently
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

The next day, I was off to San Marcos Sierra, about an hour or so away from Capilla del Monte. Still took a while to get there though, because of the weird bus timings. Anyway, I got to San Marcos and boy, was it a hippie town. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was going on. People were hanging out in the main plaza practicing juggling, or making friendship bands, or playing the guitar, or just lying around int he sun doing nothing. It was nothing like I had ever seen before.

I decided to check out the hippie museum and set off to find it. Very idyllic walk.

On the main road in town Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

On the main road in town
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Just so peaceful Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Just so peaceful
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Just before I reached the hippie museum, I saw these two people playing with a small bird that was sitting on the road. It was a gorgeous baby falcon, but it was quite odd that the bird wasn’t flying away. They eventually set the bird in the bushes to keep it out of harm’s way and I continued on my way to the hippie museum.

Baby falcon! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Baby falcon!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

To call it a museum would be to use the word museum very loosely – it was more of this guy’s house which people paid to enter. He had pictures of famous celebrities and spoke for about an hour about his experiences, and that was pretty much it.

So hippie Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

So hippie
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

He told us about every single one of them Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

He told us about every single one of them
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Pretty cool project with messages in glass bottles Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Pretty cool project with messages in glass bottles
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

As I was walking out though, I noticed that the little baby falcon had stupidly made it’s way back to the centre of the road again, where it most certainly would have been eaten by dogs or cats, or run over by a car leaving the museum. I didn’t want to pick the bird up because I didn’t want it to be rejected by its mother for smelling like humans, but I wasn’t going to stand there and watch it get run over either, so I picked it up, surprisingly without much difficulty.

It stood there for a bit before coming back out to the road Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

It stood there for a bit before coming back out to the road
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

It was surprisingly calm Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

It was surprisingly calm
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

I had no idea what to do with it, and eventually, with a French girl I met, brought it to one of the neighbours living there, who informed me that it would most certainly die soon if it didn’t get water, and even then it might still die. I decided to bring the poor fellow to the vet, only to be told that the vet was closed till 6 (it was about 2pm) then. The guy gave me a box to keep the bird in anyway, and I headed back to the town to get a syringe from the pharmacy to give it some water. I fed it some water and it seemed to be getting better, but at around 5.30, it quietly died. 😦 it was very sad, but a guy, Salvador from El Salvador, who had seen me looking quite miserable came over to comfort me and he took the bird off my hands – he was going to use the feathers to make a dream catcher. So at least the bird didn’t die in vain (:

By that time, it was too late to catch a bus back to Cordoba, so Salvador showed me to a cheap hostel, and I hung out the rest of the evening with him, his wife and their adorable son, Korou.

Korou likes playing in the dirt Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Korou likes playing in the dirt
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Salvador and Korou Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Salvador and Korou
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

The next day, I wandered around the town for a bit before catching the bus back to Cordoba.

Cool art from scrap metal - motorbike, rhino, T-rex Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Cool art from scrap metal – motorbike, rhino, T-rex
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Back in Córdoba, another protest is in session! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Back in Córdoba, another protest is in session!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

I felt like I had spent enough time in Cordoba, and I was ready to leave. I had a vague idea of going to Puerto Iguazu to check out the Iguazu waterfalls, so when I got to the bus station I asked around for bus tickets. Most of the booths I asked quoted me about 1000pesos for semi-cama and about 1200 for cama, not that insane a price considering it was a 22-23 hour journey. Just as I was about to fork out a significant amount of cash for my ticket, I found a great deal – 700 for semi-cama and 820 for cama suite! Obviously, I got the cama suite and felt very pleased with myself.

I didn’t do anything much that night, and the next day, it was time to say goodbye to Gabi and friends and head off to Puerto Iguazu!

Bye, Gabi! Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

Bye, Gabi!
Córdoba, Argentina, Jan 2014

“Poor” countries may be the richest of all

My friends and I were talking, and someone made the comment that she wanted a job that pays more. And that got me thinking – do we really need jobs that pay more, or do we just need to live somewhere where you don’t need as much to be just as happy?

Don’t get me wrong – I think Singapore is a great place to live and whenever the people I meet ask me what Singapore is like, I tell them it’s a wonderful place. It’s a place where the streets are safe, even at 2 in the morning, where you can get just about any kind of food you want at any hour of the day (or night), where your kids can get an education that is pretty damn good. Things work (most of the time) in Singapore. There aren’t any strikes, or protests, or anything really. Life, for the most part, sails smoothly, if boringly, on.

And when I tell the friends I’ve made here this, the inevitable question always is – then why did you leave? If life in Singapore is so good, why are you here?

Oftentimes, “here” is a place with fewer creature comforts than I may be used to. Life “here” may not be like life in Singapore. Walking alone on the streets is something I try to avoid doing after dark, I haven’t had decent Asian food in ages, and I’m not sure about the education, but let’s just say I haven’t met very many English speakers (that’s not to say that learning English is the hallmark of good education, but it is a very widely spoken language and not ensuring the new generation has a firm grasp of it puts them at a disadvantage, in my opinion). Things exist in a state of near chaos, strikes and protests are a commonplace occurrence, and life sails smoothly on like a ship in a thunderstorm.

Yet, when I look at the people I’m surrounded by, these people who live on next to nothing, I can see their happiness. It emanates from within them. It adds a sparkle to their smile, a twinkle to their eye, a wonderful, rich heartiness to their laugh.

So while I tell people that I’m “here” to see the world, to have new experiences, to meet new people or some variation of the three, perhaps what I’m really doing here is searching for a place where life is rich, but not in the way I’m used to.

Watching people in Singapore, with all their fancy gadgets and shiny toys, it somehow still seems like their lives have been sucked out of them, leaving behind nothing but empty shells. Dead eyes that seem to look right through you, hollow laughs that last a tad too long and end too abruptly, and smiles that never quite seem to reach the eyes. Life in Singapore seems like paradise, but maybe I don’t want a place in paradise.

Thinking about where I come from, and the places I’ve been, slowly I begin to realize, that there is one key difference between us, and them. Despite them having almost nothing at all, they have enough. And us? Despite us having it all, we somehow don’t quite have enough. Maybe enough is where happiness lies. And maybe, all I want is to have enough, and to be happy with enough.

Perhaps, this is something that isn’t unique to Singapore, but I can only draw on my own experiences. I imagine that this happens in many places, especially where people have reached a level of economic development that life becomes more about the accumulation of material goods, rather than enjoying the time we have here with those who mean something to us. Because it is human nature to want, and to want more, and then some more. Human desire is insatiable, but feeding it makes it an greedy demon that starts to demand more and more and eventually comes to dictate our entire lives.

We have nobody but ourselves to blame that our lives have come to be controlled by this demon. We talk about rich people and poor people, rich communities and poor communities, rich countries and poor countries. We place an immense amount of importance on these material goods, the collection of which apparently reflects how rich or poor one is. But beyond a certain level of wealth, “richness” should not be measured in the number of cars, houses or electronic gadgets one has. And I have seen this with my own eyes – that one doesn’t need things to be rich; richness comes from something intangible. Richness comes from having caring friends and family around you. Richness comes from being able to laugh freely. Richness comes from being able to sleep peacefully at night. And that’s why, at the end of the day, I think that our friends in “poor”countries may be far richer than us.