Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I don't encounter a lot of wildlife at work. Once a friendly puppy bounded into my office, but it was promptly removed. Another time I caught a giant venomous spider in a plastic cup - perhaps a suitcase stowaway originating from the American west - and set it free in our parking lot. Last night was one of those rare brushes with the animal kingdom. The lull in incoming phone calls was interrupted by a bird thumping against our picture window.

My co-worker Heather and I leaned close to the glass to get a good look, hoping it was not dead. The bird tumbled back onto the concrete, its wings flung awkwardly to the side and the wind knocked out of its lungs. Soon it began twitching, its chest heaving violently.

"That's it. The bird's fizzling out," I said sadly.

Our picture window is tinted like a pair of FBI sunglasses. During the day, you can't see in from outside unless you are pressing your nose to the glass. Heather speculated that the bird might have been somehow impaired before the impact. Such a collision seemed otherwise unlikely.

"Maybe it was having a stroke as it was flying by the window," she suggested.

"Or a brain aneurysm," I offered. "It probably has all sorts of neurological damage now."

I kept trying to envision the bird straightening out and flying away like it was nothing. In reality, the quick little pulses of the bird's chest did not make the situation look more hopeful. Now its tail was pointing upwards, it seemed to be curling into a ball. It's gauzy bird-soul was rising to the deck of the ship, trying to balloon its way to the avian heavens.

"I think it's having a seizure," I said. "What can we do? Should I give it CPR? What if it has a family?"

I imagined how mouth-to-beak resuscitation might work and what sort of diseases I might get from performing it on an accident victim. I considered going on break and bringing it breadcrumbs from the kitchen. Maybe the resulting sugar rush would give it the energy it needed to resume flight. I felt so helpless just watching and not taking action.

I left the office for a few minutes to use the copy machine. When I returned, the had bird flipped upright, looking tired, slouched, and hung-over. My hopes were skyrocketing.

"I wish it would just fly away like nothing happened," Heather said. We were still hovering at the window with our eyes on the concrete ledge below. I kept picturing the bird fluttering into a nearby tree. Suddenly, the bird straightened its posture, took a few hops in place, and flew into the bushes.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


All I want to do is leave the country. I have been daydreaming about it often since the last time I left the country. On a weekly basis, I torment all of those around me with stories of Romani kids and cheese-toting anarchists in the Czech Republic. Then I think about having another adventure. This all-consuming wanderlust often manifests itself in the form of looking at pictures of rainbow buildings in Argentina or teaching myself useful Polish phrases or reading an entire website about Bulgarian cuisine while at work. My workplace environment only enables me by making it extremely easy for me to spend an entire shift reading about Bulgarian cuisine.

Finally, some real progress. Dave and I are going to Peru in November. I will have someplace useful to channel this energy. Now here is a photo montage of pictures from Google Images!


Wild camelids!

Peru is one country that Dave and I both can agree on. I’ve wanted to visit Machu Picchu since I was a wee beastie. I saw Matt Lauer traveling there on the morning news while eating my Fruity Pebbles and I thought, “Yes. I shall go there.” Last year I met some kids from Lima and got a favorable impression of that city as well. Did you know it is the Gastronomy Capital of the Americas? I’m not sure who has the privilege of awarding such titles, but I intend to find out if it is well-deserved. Peru is a great exporter of cocoa beans, so I can’t help but imagine chocolate gushing from the alleys like floodwater. And if there is good chocolate then I could easily live off of that for ten days (or until I get a chocolate hangover).

But chocolate addictions aside, I may need to start eating fish again to be able to survive in Lima. My last few experiences with fish have involved unparalleled bellyaches. Peru is famous for ceviche, which I tried with Dave several years ago. Instead of cooking the fish, it is prepared with lemon juice and spices. The lemon juice is supposed to kill the bacteria and parasites. We went to a restaurant near our college and ordered some sort of pink-fish-ceviche. It was delicious, but we both felt very weird during the car ride home. My whole body felt loopy. I didn’t know it at the time, but the feelings of loopy-ness were just hallucinations brought on by food poisoning.

I told a friend from Lima about my ceviche experience. “You shouldn't be eating that outside of Peru,” she gently chided.

One night after I came home from work, Dave and I stitched together the skeleton of the whole adventure in one big marathon. Dave found some not-so-expensive round trip plain tickets; I arranged our accommodations. We tried to buy our tickets to Machu Picchu ahead of time. Apparently, it is not so difficult to buy the tickets in Cusco the night before or the morning of the trip.

Huayna Picchu, the misty and impressive mountain peak that one sees in all pictures of the ruins, is a little harder to tackle spontaneously. You need to buy the tickets in a package with Machu Picchu. Only 400 people are allowed to climb it a day and you have to go through Peru’s government website to book it ahead of time. Peru’s website is notoriously screwy, however, so we had no luck in procuring any tickets ahead of time. Officially, it only takes Visa cards. In reality it does not even take Visa cards.

We also missed out on buying our lunch ahead of time from the only buffet-style restaurant at the peak of this precious ancient treasure. I suppose we will just bring sandwiches.

I began to consider what sort of footwear one would wear for the climb. Normally I would wear my barefoot shoes for hiking, but I wondered if something more heavy-duty would be necessary. Google provided us with heaps of wisdom. Some people climbed it in sneakers, others in Teva sandals. One person recommended that we wear two pairs of socks. He said that a friend recommended that he wear two pairs of socks and, though he can no longer remember the excellent reason, he now wears two pairs of socks every day.

While we have the skeleton of the trip pieced together, there are still other important things that need to be addressed. I need to bring my level of Spanish to at least conversational-caveman level in the next two months. I can hardly remember anything from my Rosetta Stone lessons from last year, but I really hope to see some women eating rice in Peru so I can make intelligent remarks. And at least one alpaca, which I will ardently embrace.