Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 in Review- Three Oceans

Back in the house where I lived my adolescence, I am trying to figure out what has happened in the last months. It has been a year of many changes that moved fast and required quick decision making and adaptation.

It all started in a gay dance club in Patong on New Year’s Day. I found myself dancing among men that thought me invisible and watching my ex-boyfriend flow in that scene, much happier than what I had ever seen him.

Next, it was the visit of my friend Jimena. I was so happy to see her, my dear friend in a place that was like a different planet. It is always unreal to see someone you know well out of context. We enjoyed together traveling like maniacs, despite my sadness and weariness. Cities, wavy roads, mountains, strawberry fields, rice paddies, clouds on the valleys, Chinese tea houses, elephants, beaches, fishing villages, clear waters, fire shows…

Phi Phi Islands - Indian Ocean 

After saying a difficult goodbye to the island (my home) that I loved and hated, I appear in a snowy DC. And soon thereafter I was in my native city, trying to explain to everyone what the heck I was doing with my life.

Mar del Plata - Atlantic Ocean

And hey, as much as I tried to conform to a life in Washington, I think plan A pushed its way through my consciousness into reality. In a few months I went from creating a comfortable life in DC with a nice job, a condo in front of the zoo, bike rides, coffee shops, brunches, museums and theaters to a nomadic life, with no more possessions than a few bags, shoes on my feet and a brain in my head. Along the way, I met new members of the family and  I lost dear people. My friend Lore left this world, but also left her gifts.

Oregon - Pacific Ocean

So, finding myself with such a light baggage and such a full heart, I wonder where is next?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Are you back?

Some people still ask me where in the world I am. Many times I wonder myself:  when I suddenly doubt which side of the road I should be riding my bike on; when I look for the light switch on the outside wall of the bathroom; or when I temporarily forget what is outside of my home (I can go downstairs to the Family Mart around the corner. Oh! Wait! That was in Phuket). I guess this is normal when one lives in four countries in the course of six months.

I thought that I would stop writing this blog once I returned to Washington, DC. Yet, I have been back for four months and I still feel identified by the tittle “The Impermanent Resident”. I have the feeling that only part of me has come back. The rest is scattered around: at the Dayananda Ashram’s patio, contemplating the Ganges; on Rang Hill, where the monkeys steal from me while I do yoga and the sun splashes pink on the sky’s canvas; on my grandma’s hands, so tiny and so full of love; in the eyes of friends, people in the trains, lovers that never happened, curious children, the markets attendants, the cities passersby…

“Flor, are you back in DC?”

Am I?

Well, I have been trying to put myself together, finding ways to become busy and seeing people that know me, so that maybe they can regroup me.

So yes, in a way I am back in my old condo in the quiet side of Adams Morgan, just behind the zoo, from where I hear the lion roar. I have worked at a restaurant, just for the money and against my beliefs. Until the last week I worked at a summer school in Mundo Verde, an environmental charter school. Tomorrow I start a new job at a Montessori school, where I will be working with pre-kinder kids. I am also trying to start teaching yoga, so that I can share the wonderful things I learned in India and in the last years of practice. 
I started riding my bike again, after two years, and I sometimes cook meals that are too complex to be made in a rice cooker.

I miss too many people, but also my heart is full of pieces of those who have touched my life. My heart has expanded with my travel experiences and with the love of many.

So, here I am. For now.
U Street & 15th - Washington DC

Monday, April 28, 2014

Mar del Plata

“Where in Argentina are you from?”

“From La Plata,” I respond.

“Oh, yes! The beach town! ”, the interlocutor exclaims with pride for his knowledge.

“No, that is Mar del Plata.”

Mar del Plata is where I spent all of my childhood summer vacations. We always stayed at the hotel owned by the union of government employees, which is the closest hotel to the beach. Literarily, one crosses the road and there it is: the vast ocean. Unfortunately, the water is as cold as if it came from snowmelts. I did not mind it, and I did not know any better, when I was young. I just found the beach fascinating. I spent hours building sand sculptures and walking on the rocks, trying to find anemones that shyly pursed when I stuck my finger on them. I collected the most beautiful shells and, one time, I found a huge crab claw that seemed made of porcelain.

Despite my aversion to food, the city offered atypical culinary options that awoke my interest. I learned about seafood at the restaurants of the harbor and ate unhealthy plates of milanesas, papas and huevos, everything fried. We relished on the Havanna alfajores, (back then, they were sold only in their hometown) which we gulped with condensed milk coffee that my mom prepared in the small room by means of an electrical heater.

Mar del Plata was a city of hidden treasures. My brother Nico and I developed our creativity beyond limits; one time, during boring siesta time, we discovered how filmography worked as the whole world outside reflected on the walls or our room through a little hole in the window. There were always new friends to meet and boys to get crushes on and new clothes bought at Ferimar and crabs, seagulls, grassy hills and cool nights.

Not long ago I was back  in my childhood realm of sand. My trip to Argentina coincided with my grandparents’ vacation. They always take their break in March, when classes already started and the AMEMOP hotel fills with the retirees. It had been a long time since we took a trip together and I excitedly accepted their invitation to join them.

The taxi I took from the bus station pulled in front of the hotel, on Paseo Jesus de Galindez, where my grandma was waiting for me. It was already dark and the cold sea breeze blew her hair. Being in the cold, waiting for me, was one of the infinite things she has done to love me.  Together with my grandpa, we had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, which was filled with old people. The restaurant was a new addition to the premises where there used to be a bare concrete structure. In fact, the hotel looked pretty different due to the many additions and repairs they had done along the years. My room, though, was just as in the old times: damp, with a tiny bathroom that served as a shower –I recalled my parents squishing the floors after showering, so that we would not get our feet went when we went to the toilet- and smelling of wet sand.

My grandparents, who are in their late eighties, enjoyed their simple routines: breakfast in the large room that overlooks into the ocean (cafĂ© con leche  and about four pieces of toast each, which my grandma spreads with butter and jam, and maybe a little piece of media luna); reading each word of the newspaper at the hotel’s courtyard; a little stroll on the beach, soaking the feet in the frigid water (my grandma only; my grandpa does not want to walk down the steps to the beach); eating; taking a nap; having mate; and dressing up for dinner. So did I follow a simple routine during the five days I spent with them: ate all the same meals; spent many hours in front of the computer; and went for runs along the ocean, as I had dreamed of doing as a child when I saw the beautifully sculptured thighs of a runner wearing short blue lycra pants in the eighties.

The city, although still beautiful, seemed so much smaller, so less magical; as everything does when one is not a child any more. The passing of time… And we were there, my grandparents and I. My grandma, so coquettish that seems to have never changed. My grandpa sliding into mind of a child that speaks his mind with no shame and charming naughtiness. And I, an adult that has been to so many places, and none as delightful as Mar del Plata.
Coca y Lolo

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A night or pure LOVE: My first encounter with Ayahuasca

Several years ago, while on a business trip in the Peruvian jungle, I was surprised to see someone I knew from Washington, DC. We were at the tiny airport of a town called Tarapoto and he was the only white, tall man in the building. I approached him and asked him what he was doing that remote place. He said he was there to meet a shaman who would make him drink a plant brew for a deep cleanse. The thought of being sick and vomiting with a medicine man in a far-off jungle sounded terrifying to me.  I put that strange idea out of my mind.

Still, as many other crazy things that I casually heard about and ended up doing (such as living abroad, learning Thai massage, backpacking, etc.), the message inadvertently slipped into my brain for later use. And the day came when I would cleanse myself with the sacred plant through a shamanic ceremony.

While in Thailand I had heard the personal experience of a fellow Argentinean with Ayahuasca, the sacred plant. She told me that taking Ayahuasca had led her to deep understanding about her life. Instead of traveling to the Peruvian jungle, she had had the experience with a “Brazilian” shaman in Buenos Aires. Upon listening to her enthusiastic narrative about it, I became determined to try Ayahuasca in my next trip to Argentina.

So a few nights ago I stepped into a room full of people lined up along the walls, resting on yoga mats, camping mattresses, sleeping bags and blankets, expecting to achieve self-knowledge and heal themselves. Shaking with fright, I laid on my massage mattress, head against a big-windowed wall. Soon thereafter, the ceremony began. The shaman, who did not look like a medicine man, but more like a loving hippie white guy with big tattoos, briefly explained how the night would go. It was about ten in the evening and the ceremony would end in the morning. Each of us would drink two small glasses of the brew. For the first take, we walked in turns towards the shaman under the light of one candle. While I drank mine my heart was beating frantically but I returned to my mattress, laid down on my back with my hands on my stomach and started to relax, listening to the lovely Indian music. Sometime later, the shaman brought us a second glass –we were to dizzy to walk towards him. When he finished the round, the musicians started playing in the dark. They played the most upbeat and delightful music, music of the jungle, mystic music from South American instruments.

I was expecting to start hallucinating immediately after the second glass. Instead, my mind started resisting. I thought that the brew had had no effect on me. I imagined myself shamefully complaining in the morning, being the only one person for whom Ayahuasca had done nothing. I heard others cry, toss and turn, and throw up. And I was just lying there, unaffected, waiting for a third glass that never came. The struggle went on for a long time until somehow, I surrendered to the music, to the shaman, to a reality my mind did not understand. That is how, for a few hours before dawn, I had the most amazing realizations of my life. I comprehended the Universe, God, and human life in a most profound way. The waves of emotion I felt were so powerful that I cried with all my body. In between those waves, there was only beauty and pleasure.

Around three AM the musicians stopped their gorgeous melodies and they started playing recorded music. Until the morning came, I reviewed the revelations of the night and could not stop smiling, knowing that life is all love and is never-ending.

I was able to stand and leave the place at around nine. I felt as if I was extremely drunk without being sick. My body felt strange, as if I had not been in it during the previous hours. I think I had not.

The revelations were very clear; however I do not want to go into details about them because each person gets what he needs. What I can say is that my night with Ayahuasca was the most pleasurable and healing experience and I am looking forward to repeating it with the new inquiries that opened up.

*There is lots of information about Ayahuasca online. I encourage you to learn more about it and, definitely, try it. Ayahuasca is a gift from Mother Earth and our ancestors to help us heal and be happy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


In India, someone told me that certain swamis, especially in the Jain religion, practice their unattachment by never staying in one place more than three days. I thought it hypocritical. Certainly, no one can become attached to anything or anyone in just three days. The real challenge is in creating relationships and then leaving.

On the taxi ride from Cool Residence to Phuket International Airport I recalled the swamis and contemplated, once more, my hypocrisy. After all, I also had a non-attachment rule: not staying anywhere for more than a year. And, because I had broken it, I was deeply sad. My eyes filled with tears when I said goodbye to Pooh and Pu, my landlords; I sobbed while passing the roads that had become so familiar and would one day turn into a mingle of flashing pictures in my memory; and I cried out of frustration, lost dreams, lack of love, and pain that would flourish into light someday.

When I sat inside the plane my heart still hurt, but I was done. I was ready to leave. Up in the air I looked through the window and I saw Phuket, so hazy in the sunset light. I saw its green, soft hills, the contour of the coast, the thin border of sand before the infinite blueness. Its sight had filled me with enthusiasm in my first flight into the island.

The much dreaded hours of flights went by easily. I did not sleep almost at all and was able to catch up with all the movies that I had missed in a year of not going to the theaters. I finally landed in a white city that I knew well. And I cried again. I could have kissed the ground or the immigration officer as happy as I was about being back.

Being everywhere and nowhere.  Being impermanent.

*Aparigraha means non-possessiveness. This vow is to observe detachment from people, places and material things.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Jimena's visit

In the morning of January third my eyes were stuck at door C of the Suvarnabhumi airport of Bangkok. About one hour after the sign announced her plane had landed Jimena emerged from the guts of the arrival hall. It is strange seeing someone you know so well in a place separate from the reality where you met.

Jimena and I met in Washington, DC. A friend in common thought it would be a good idea to introduce us, since we were both climbers and from Argentina. During the year that Jimena stayed in DC we shared many moments, including long talks on Sunday evenings, while we rode the metro from the climbing gym to the Bethesda station, where she would get off the train. When she returned to Argentina we kept on with the tradition of the Sunday talks over Skype. We still have them, although not every Sunday.

The adventure started with a boat and walking tour of Bangkok. Some sections of the tour included roads with no sidewalks, which Jimena found half terrifying and half amusing. We visited the biggest reclining Buddha at Wat Po (my fourth time there), a Hindu Giant Swing, a neighborhood where they sell Buddha statues of all sizes and shades of gold, and saw a magnificent sunset on the hill of the Golden Temple. We passed by the Democracy monument, where there Thais displayed numerous flags (as part of the protest against the Prime Minister) and a band played on an improvised stage. Finally, we ended the night at colorful Khao San Road. No scorpions this time; just fried rice.

The next day we walked along Sukhumvit and visited a few malls and strolled around Lumphini Park. In the evening we said goodbye to Bangkok from Hua Lamphong station and rode the overnight train to Chiang Mai.

My beloved Chiang Mai! It never ceases to enamor me. We walked around the walled city and stopped at a few of its many temples. In the evening Rachadamnoen Road burst with energy. The main road turns into an extravaganza of musicians, street foods, vendors, artisans and tourist during the Sunday Walking Market. One feels like buying everything, eating everything and absorbing everything to last forever.

After two days in Chiang Mai we took the scarily winding and hilly road to Pai. Pai is a little town meant for the tourists: adorable. We rented a motorcycle in the downtown area and rode with our luggage to our guesthouse, which was on the outskirts, Thai style. In our first day in Pai we visited a Chinese colony that served us tea on a hill. The next day we started the ride early in the morning, and it was so foggy and cold that my lips turned blue and I could not feel my fingers for a long time. Our first stop was at Love Strawberry Pai, a dreamlike place of hearts and strawberries. We sang, of course, Strawberry Fields Forever, while we rode. By the time we got to the next stop, Pai Canyon, the sun came out and we were able to defrost.

The minivan night ride from Pai to the Thai/Laos border was as terrifying as a rollercoaster ride, except a lot more dangerous. They carried us as cattle, without explanations, through immigration. In Laos we had to wait half a day at the bus terminal, which was in the middle of nowhere, to catch another night bus to Luang Prabang. Yet the whole torture was worth seeing gorgeous Luang Prabang, a city that is too pleasant and comfortable to be in such a modest part of the world.

The ride back to Thailand was long and draining. However, the views we glimpsed of the mountainous and almost untouched country of Laos made the trip less unbearable. Up on the hills, we saw rivers of clouds covering the valleys. All along there were huts of people that we could call poor if we ignored the fact that they get to enjoy these views each day of their lives.
Back through the border, we landed at Nong Khai, a Northern city in Thailand that sits on the Mekong River. It was a most bizarre place. Because the only people we met there were very jovial older fellows, Jimena and I joked that it was Cocoon Town and that we would come back later in life to rejuvenate ourselves.

As we had had enough long bus rides, we flew to our last destination, the dreamy island of Phuket…

From Phuket we took a boat to Phi Phi Islands for a couple of days. We stayed at Viking’s Nature resort, where they gave us a spectacular room with a bathroom as big as my condo.  At Maya Bay we played in the clear and warm water and in the white beaches and we watched the most amazing fire show with new friends from Spain.

With Jimena I shared the place that I got to know well; the good, the bad and the ugly: Phuket, the island where I suffered so much loneliness and where I learned so much about myself. Phuket, with its amazing sunsets, its powdery sand, its proud people, its shallow love, its materialism, its selfishness…  Sharing it all with her gave me the opportunity to close this tough time with a sense of accomplishment and pride.

This year, only one happy New Year*

If the first hours of a new year are the indicator of how the rest of it will go, then I am set for a thrilling ride. Well, it did start with an unusual ride: inside a shopping cart, at high speeds, in wild Bangla road.

I had recently returned from India and I had no plans for the New Year. My friend Laura was taking a break in Bali and I was cat-sitting for her. Most of the people I knew were traveling for the holiday break. Maybe it would be as the previous year, when my grandma woke me up at midnight to wish me a happy new year over the phone. Then, I had walked to my balcony to watch the fireworks bursting in the island’s valley.

Then, out of the blue, El Mago called. He was organizing a small celebration at his home with the friends scattered around the island. I had not seen him or talked to him in almost five months.

So, I spent the last moments of 2013 and the beginning of this year with El Mago, Fede, and a few other friends of his; eating Indian food, which I cooked, being silly without the help of alcohol in Phuket’s red district, and dancing in a gay club with my ex-lover, who is currently into men...

This year may be, therefore, a time where I am open to the unexpected, at peace with change, and amused by the surreal nature of life.

*In 2013 I celebrated the Western New Year, the Lunar New Year and Songkran