Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Nobody Goes Anywhere Anymore, We Just Transmute

Is "transmute" a word, or is it "transform"? My English is suffering, I'm afraid, after the year and a half speaking Spanish and the occasional pidgeon Quechua.

I am now physically in Berkeley, Ca. Yes these are my arms and legs and this is my head and I do believe I am all here in one piece.

Yet I go to this electronic box..and presto changeo..here are my friends in Peru, Argentina, Colombia! With all of their passion and problems and interests, just as I left them before. With You-tube I can even see them dancing or hiking or doing inane things around the house if they want me to.

In our electronic world, we don't go anywhere anymore, we just transform ourselves into bits and bytes, into emails or jpeg images or You-tube videos and do our work or hang out with our friends that way.
In Bolivia once, I traveled by bus with a 19 year old and reminisced a bit about what it was like travelling for me at her age. "Yeah," she said, her eyes wide like I had been to the North Pole and back in a bathing suit, "You traveled before there was email!"

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Closing the Circle

Ironically, now that I am back "home" in the San Francisco Bay Area, I will probably blog more. I realize my entries during this last trip have been pretty thin. Probably because a great deal of my writing energy was caught up in doing journalism, and my energy was also caught up in simply moving from place to place. Homelessness as an art form.

Constantly writing in internet cafes didn't help my "reflective writing" much, either, though it was fine for writing articles. Usually I went to the internet cafes with the article already written in longhand, and then braved the noise (screaming little boys with video games, loudtalking tourists) and confusion and chaos of the place to enter what I had written. But this was probably better than the risk of carrying a laptop from place to place.

In many ways, the return from a long trip like this is often the most important time for me, it is a time of closing the circle, of seeing and digesting what the trip has actually given me, and perhaps also reviewing what, if anything, I have been able to bring to the place I have visited.

Some people talk a lot about the importance of staying in your own community, or with your own "people" (whoever the hell they are)and doing your work there. But for some of us, that is not at all our path. The concept of the traveler--the travelling healer, the messenger, the chaski--seems to be much more accepted in South America than in the North. And it is not just young people who do it. Here, with our mortage payments and our debt and our need to have "stuff", it is much more difficult.

Some people who choose to move around a lot do it in a more linear fashion, moving from one place to the next, and shedding like skins the lives they have set up in various places. But I have always been a more circular traveler, with the point of return being this multi-layered, multi-cultural place called the San Francisco Bay Area.

It is spring, and the weather is good. Here in the East Bay, the flowers are blooming. Welcome home, they seem to say.