08 November 2011

he opened more libraries around the world than carnegie...

You've probably never heard of John Wood, but he's doing some pretty amazing work.  Here's Nicholas Kristof's New York Times piece on his libraries around the world:

His Libraries, 12,000 So Far, Change Lives
Published: November 5, 2011
CAI LEI, Vietnam
 Peter Stuckings
Room to Read, a charity founded by John Wood, builds libraries and fills them with books. These girls in Cai Lei, Vietnam, accepted new books as if they were treasures.

Nicholas D. Kristof
ONE of the legendary triumphs of philanthropy was Andrew Carnegie’s construction of more than 2,500 libraries around the world. It’s renowned as a stimulus to learning that can never be matched — except that, numerically, it has already been surpassed several times over by an American man you’ve probably never heard of.

07 November 2011

03 November 2011

sucre, bolivia

Here's a quick look at Sucre, Bolivia.   Our bus ride in from Potosi:

We had the good fortune of staying with my partner's childhood friend's aunt, who happens to live alongside the Peruvian consulate.  Nice.

05 October 2011

improv everywhere

I know, it's been ages.  Sorry.  I'm working on my work-life balance, and I'm starting to see light at the proverbial end of the tunnel.

So, on to happier things.  Like Improv Everywhere.  These clips were shot in New York, but I'd love to see more of this all over.


And here's an old classic:

15 August 2011

potosí, bolivia

Sorry I've been MIA for so long.  I opened a little cafe, and it's taken up all of my time.  If you're interested, you can check it out here.

But back to the travels.  Potosí is known for its silver, but the vibrant building colors were what impressed me most.  Anyway, here's a look at one of Bolivia's most picturesque cities...

16 July 2011

bolivian flamingos in a martian landscape

Leaving the salt flat area, you still see an accumulation of salt that resembles that first dusting of snow on the ground.

11 July 2011

a bolivian salt hotel

Here is the little salt hotel we stayed in after we visited the salt flats of Uyuni.  It's made of (you guessed it) salt bricks.

06 July 2011

bolivia's salar de uyuni earth and sky

The salar had these unexpected and changing crystal patterns on the ground, and the horizon was flat as far as the eye could see.  The result: otherworldly earth and sky images.  Enjoy!

29 June 2011

incahuasi island, bolivia

In the middle of the giant white salt plain of Salar de Uyuni, there is a rocky island covered with towering cacti.  It's otherworldly.

21 June 2011

the world's largest salt flat, bolivia's salar de uyuni (with lots of funny photos)

In all of my travels, Salar de Uyuni stands out as one of the most incredible things I've seen.  To say it's the world's largest salt flat at over 4000 square miles just doesn't mean much.  It's kind of neat to see it from space:

But to bring the numbers to a more human level and give the Salar de Uyuni a more apt description, it looks like a never-ending plain of perfectly flat, perfectly white snow.  And like much of Bolivia, it's around 12,000 feet above sea level.

There's so much salt, even the buildings are made of salt bricks, like this little one:

16 June 2011

bolivia's uyuni and the antique train cemetery

Uyuni doesn't have all that much to brag about, but it is the gateway to some of the world's most impressive attractions, including the world's largest salt flats.  Otherwise, it's pretty much just a train stop, evidenced by the train art on the main street.

13 June 2011

the long road to uyuni, bolivia

One of Bolivia's most visited destinations are the famous salt flats outside of Uyuni, but the area is pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  So, we took a bus from Tiwanaku (above) back to La Paz:

08 June 2011

tiwanaku, bolivia

We took a day trip from La Paz to Tiwanaku (also spelled Tiahuanaco and Tiahuanacu), now an archeological site considered "one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire."

The area may have been inhabited as early as 3500 years ago as an agricultural village, but there are no records, as the people had no written language.  What they do know is that it served as the administrative and spiritual capital for about five hundred years (somewhere around 1500 years ago), and the theory is that a great drought about 1000 years ago sent people towards Lake Titicaca for better agricultural conditions.

03 June 2011

before and after carnaval in la paz, bolivia

Often, it's fascinating to see performers before and after the show.  Here are a few glimpses of the parade participants outside of the parades.

31 May 2011

carnaval in la paz, bolivia

The main difference between Carnaval in Oruro and Carnaval in La Paz were all of the clowns in La Paz.  There were tons of different costumes in Oruro but zero clowns.  In La Paz, you see many of the same types of groups as you'd see in Oruro, but with groups of dancing clowns thrown in.

24 May 2011

la paz, bolivia

Bolivia's capital, La Paz, means 'the peace,' and it's pretty mellow for a decent-sized city (population a bit over a million).  (The full name is Nuestra Señora de la Paz, 'our lady of the peace,' after the Virgin Mary.)  It's bustling with pedestrians, but I never felt unsafe or crowded in.

When you cross the 'zebra stripes' in some of the central areas, there are friendly zebras to help you.  (The zebra on the left has a red "Pare" (stop) sign to direct people and cars.)  All major cities should have zebra crossing guards, no?

21 May 2011

oruro to la paz, bolivia

From Oruro, we took the bus to Bolivia's capital, La Paz.  Here's some of what we saw, starting with this miner's helmet and approaching dragon:

20 May 2011

shoestring philanthropy

Maybe you are also guilty of this idealistic notion, too-- I've wanted to help "make the world a better place" since I was little, and I still hope I'll be able to leave this world a little better than I found it.  And if hearing about good deeds truly can beget more of them, then here goes.

Enter Marc Gold, retired community-college professor from San Francisco, who is practicing "shoestring philanthropy."  He travels to "where the poor people are," and he does what he can to make life a bit better, whether it's through buying art supplies for orphanages in Tibet or a year's supply of rice for a battered women's shelter in India.

"For people who live on a dollar or less a day, $50 can make a big difference," Gold says.  He adds:

"I'd thought you had to be rich to do such things.  I realized I had the power to help change people's lives."

16 May 2011

a bolivian church with a hidden underground mining museum

Oruro may be small, but it is the folkloric capital of Bolivia and really has some remarkable things to see.  Aside from its famous, UNESCO-recognized Carnaval parades, the Santuario del Socavón is the church all the parade participants twirl and march to, and it is probably one of the very few (if not the only) churches in the world to have a mining museum with former mining tunnels below it.

13 May 2011

oruro markets

You can get your own Carnaval gear, as well as musical instruments, colorful decor and water guns/water balloons at the many street stalls in Oruro.

10 May 2011

chinese boy carries his friend to school for eight years and counting...

This is pretty amazing:
International Business Times, May 6, 2011 6:43 AM HKT
In Hebei, China, a teenager named Lui Shi Ching, 16 years old, has carried his friend to school daily for the last 8 years. His friend Lu Shao has a congenital disorder which makes it difficult for him to walk. 
Eight years ago on a rainy day, Lu shao was stuck at school when his mom didn't come to pick him up. Lui Shi Ching, who was smaller than Lu Shao, decided to help and carried him home. Since then, he has carried Lu shao to and from school and even to restrooms.  
Lui shi ching said in an interview: "How did I carry him when he's so heavy? I was happy helping him out and it's been 8 years already."
Lui Shi Ching didn't brag about his good deeds too much; his parents didn't even find out until 4 years after he first helped out his friend. 
Lu Shao mentioned in his diary that Lui Shi Ching's help has lifted a dark cloud in his life and let sunshine into it.

05 May 2011

more bolivian carnaval in oruro

I couldn't resist.  There are just so many amazing images from the Oruro Carnaval, I had to include some more.  Enjoy!

03 May 2011

bolivian carnaval in oruro

Oruro is this tiny town in what feels like the middle of nowhere in Bolivia, but groups from all across the country (and even some neighboring countries) start making costumes and preparing a year ahead for the annual Carnaval parades here, and the final result is like nothing I'd ever seen before.

02 May 2011

cochabamba to oruro, bolivia

Traveling by land is nice because you can digest everything you've experienced and prepare yourself for the next adventure.  It was amazing to see my partner's old friends and family, where he grew up and went to school, and it was nice to see how loved he was, even after years of being away.

From Cochabamba, we headed by bus to Oruro, famous for offering the best of Bolivia's many Carnaval parades.

29 April 2011

sidewalks of cochabamba, bolivia

Sidewalks are often overlooked, but they can be an art form even as we step all over them.  I thought Cochabamba had some nice ones.

28 April 2011

cochabamba at night

Places are always a bit different at night, and Cochabamba was no exception.  The colorful buses looked like parties rumbling by.

25 April 2011

cochabamba markets

Markets are often my favorite part of visiting a new place-- and not necessarily for buying anything.  I just think it's a great way to see local life, what's being sold, etc.  Here's a look at Cochabamba's markets.

22 April 2011

tree in the road

I fell in love with this tree I saw in the middle of the road in Cochabamba, and I'm happy they didn't cut it down, that it just became a part of the road.  When my partner and I walked by, kids were skateboarding around it, and it made me smile.  

Often, it isn't the crazy "exotic" things you see while traveling but the simple things that leave an impression.

Have a great weekend, and for those of you that celebrate Easter, Happy Easter!

19 April 2011

from berkeley to bolivia

The way my partner's family ended up in Cochabamba is a good example of our making plans and life laughing at those plans.  And how, often by being all Tao and going with the flow, we end up exactly where we belong.

So, let's go back to Berkeley circa the hippie '70s.  Enter a pretty young Southern Californian ESL teacher and a spirited Bolivian musician.  It isn't long before they're married and driving their VW van from Berkeley all the way down to the southern tip of Argentina for their yearlong honeymoon.  On their way back through Bolivia, they decide they will raise their future kids there.

18 April 2011

cochabamba, bolivia


Cochabamba is in the heart of Bolivia, which is in the heart of South America, so one could argue that Cochabama is the heart of South America.  But it is called the breadbasket of Bolivia and is more of a mellow little city than would really fit the 'heart of South America.'

In any case, Cochabamba is special to me because my partner grew up there from age four to eighteen, and I was thrilled to spend some time there and see his old house, his old school, meet old friends and family, etc.  And it was charming in its own right.



The cuñapes (cheese-filled bread in a mochi-like rice-based dough) are delicious!

And go nicely with this concoction: shot of espresso with sweetened condensed milk.  Decadent and guaranteed to keep you bouncing off the walls-- until you crash from the sugar high.

15 April 2011

little living spaces

It came up recently that living in tight quarters can be tough both logistically and on relationships.  Fortunately, my partner and I have a 400-square-foot rental at the moment and still like each other.

Anyway, here is a neat compilation of tiny and cool living spaces in a contest aptly called the Smallest Coolest Home Contest.  One of my favorites from New York (of course): 397 square feet of awesome exposed brick walls, high ceilings and tall windows.

Who needs more square feet when your home is this gorgeous?

I also love this one, which has 360 square feet:

So, how many square feet do you think we really need?  I guess it depends on how many people you want to invite over-- but even then, smaller often feels more festive.  Or is that just me?  :-)