The topic is dealt with in The Idiotby Dostoyevsky (via the character Hippolyte).
“Oh, you may be perfectly sure that if Columbus was happy, it was not after he had discovered America, but when he was discovering it…What did the New World matter after all? Columbus had hardly seen it when he died, and in reality he was entirely ignorant of what he had discovered. The important thing is life-life and nothing else! What is any ‘discovery’ whatever compared with the incessant, eternal discovery of life?”
Hippolyte is speculating of course, but his point is well taken. A goal is never the orgasm; instead, the pleasure lies in foreplay. It’s getting from point A to point Z that’s fun – the magical moments on the highway of life.
For Colombus, pleasure most likely came from the process of exploration; not the act of discovery.
I know this to be true. When I was younger, I wrote music that was performed on a major TV show. Prior to that accomplishment, I spent thousands of hours practicing: doing scales, taking singing lessons, etc. And finally, one day, something came of it. Boom! I got a placement.
But the pleasure was fleeting. After a few moments, the elation disappeared and I was left with a nagging question…what next?
Happiness lies in a process….the joy you get when you chase goal. So enjoy every day and embrace every moment. And if achieve the goal, then great! But don’t be fooled…the prize can never complete you.
Once your stomach is full, it’s only a matter of time before you become hungry again.
Was there ever a more meaningless term than “Cultural Awareness”? I think not.
For several decades, the term has been vomited on the public. Liberal colleges and HR departments, in particular, get an erection every time they say the word. They’ll say the term and stand there proudly – as if uttering the phrase has intrinsic value. And a cottage industry has grown out of the term: sensitivity trainers, software developers, liberal professors, etc. They make money to explain the term, provide a one-sided argument, and shame anybody that dares to disagree.
They believe that cultural awareness is inherently good. End of story..period. As Americans, we should learn to be sensitive…and “sensitivity” will solve America’s international problems!
But what is “cultural awareness”? What does it really mean?
You get the point. Culture is not inherently good, nor bad. Like humanity, it’s a mixed bag. It’s up to adults to determine why something is good or bad. They have to use their moral compass (if they have one).
The battle for truth is linguistic. We use words to define our reality…so we have to be careful about the terms we use. “Cultural awareness” is one of these terms – it creates an ambiguity about the world we live in which, in turn, leads to a false understanding.
The Chan Chan ruins in Trujillo, Peru are worth a visit. They’re quite extensive and they highlight a little-known culture in Pre-Colombian America: the Chimu people of Northern Peru. To see the ruins, you’ll need to take a bus to the city of Trujillo (an eight hour ride from Lima). When you get there, you’ll find a host of tour companies. You won’t be able to miss the touts. From there, it’s another hour to the ruins.
I visited Chan Chan about five years ago. It was very interesting, and I liked it as much as Machu Picchu. The ruins are well preserved and the grounds are nicely maintained. The area gets less traffic than Cuzco, which gives it a laid-back feel. It’s highly recommended.
Historical Overview: A Lesson in Pre-Colombian Warfare
The Chan Chan rose to power because of their agricultural skills; they built extensive irrigation canals. Then, like all the advanced tribes of Pre-Colombian America, they subjugated the neighboring peoples:
“…their successful military campaigns and policy of extracting tribute ensured that they became the dominant regional power.”
The Chimu party eventually came to an end. They were conquered by the Inca, who subjugated them in turn (around 1470 AD).
“…the Incas who, led by Tupac Yupanqui, captured the 11th known Chimú ruler Minchançaman in c. 1470 CE. Thereafter, the Chimú became a vassal state in the Inca Empire, and their king was kept permanent prisoner at Cuzco to ensure compliance to the new order.”
A review of Pre-Colombian America is revealing:
Many of the tribes were skilled in agriculture and architecture
The tribes were violent, waging warfare against one another; they often resorted to slavery, kidnapping and torture.
Memo to the left-wing thinkers: the “Indians” were not a unified group, holding hands in a peaceful brotherhood. They were just like the colonizing Europeans you despise – civilizations that were capable of good and evil. So your liberal fantasy about the Pre-Colombian Americas is laughable at best. If you have intellectual integrity, you’ll be honest with the facts. You’ll stop lying about the past.
History does not lie; unfortunately, liberal history teachers do.
Peru has so many ruins; you can spend months trying to see them all. If you’re heading to Peru, I recommend that you add another week to your trip and head north. You’ll find ruins that are intriguing and worth a visit.
Getting from La Paz to Uyuni involves a 12 hour, bone-rattling bus ride. The road is unpaved and it shakes the bus violently. You won’t be able to close the windows and dust will bellow into the bus cabin. You won’t sleep the entire trip.
“What’s so great about that?” you ask. It’s simple…adversity is the underpinning of memory. We relish a victory when we fight hard for it; and we forget about the prize that came easy. I guarantee that you’ll remember the bus ride to Uyuni; conversely, you’ll forget about the time you spent in the air-conditioned lobby of the Marriott.
2.) The Altitude
Salar De Uyuni is located at 12,ooo feet. So you’ll be light headed, wandering around with a slightly-stoned feeling. You’ll be removed from your conscious mind, forced to deal with the natural world. You’ll be pulled into the setting in a very direct way. It’s like Woodstock, minus the green acid.
The altitude makes the experience more intense. The is not a Disney Ride, a short, two-minute burst of make believe. You’re in the tumultuous Andes, high above the rest of the world. And there’s the danger of sorochi – an illness caused by exposure to high elevations. The ever-present danger of Uyuni makes it all the more special.
3.) The Physical Beauty
Uyuni is natural beauty, the power of earth on display. The white expanse stretching out for as far as the eye can see – pure, blinding whiteness. Nothing like it on earth. That’s what makes Uyuni so great: it’s a one-of-a-kind experience that can’t be replicated.
Note the two best times to go to Uyuni; once during the dry season, and once during the wet season. When its dry, you can race atop the salt flat on a jeep (as seen below).
When it rains, puddles form atop the flats. This creates for some amazing photo options, as the sky will majestically reflect atop the watered salt pans (as seen below). This means that you need two trips to really “do” Uyuni.
4.) The Salt Hotel
The Salt Hotel is located in the middle of the flats. It’s a mandatory stopover for any trip, given it’s unique location. You can stay the night, gazing at a million stars above.
Some hotels are all about the location – the Salt Hotel is one of them. Note that the hotels in the nearby town are not great, so you might as well stay at the Salt Hotel. You’re not missing out on anything in town.
5.) The People of Uyuni
As you leave Uyuni, you’ll notice the trademark of Bolivia: the people. They are the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Their poverty doesn’t come from failure in the Western marketplace; it comes from their genuine adherence to the ancient ways. They are stoic and unique. A trip to Bolivia would not be complete without them.
A trip to the salt flats of Bolivia is mandatory. It’s a place where nature reigns supreme, where you witness a unique spectacle of beauty. And its remote location makes it all the more special.
If everyone could visit easily, it would not be unique.
The Witches Market in La Paz, Bolivia – a place for the fearless traveler. Indigenous women wearing bowler hats, the amulets, the high altitude: a surreal experience.
But then you see it…what the f*ck is it? Something in a basket. So you move in to get a better look. My friend, what you see is a dead llama – the fetus of a baby llama, to be exact.
As Google puts it:
They are the most important part of an offering to Pachamama, a goddess that many Bolivians and Peruvians call Mother Earth. Together with candy, cotton and other small items the llama fetus is burned after which the ashes are buried under the house for protection.
So there you have it. Buy a dead llama, put it under your house, and pray for good luck.
It’s a form of animal sacrifice.
So what do you think of animal sacrifice? Personally, I’m against the idea. I think that animals should only be killed for food. If the llama was turned into a BBQ sandwich, then I would support the idea.
Note: Animal sacrifices occur throughout the non-Western world. For example, the sacrifice of chickens is common to Caribbean Santeria festivals. Cows are sacrificed throughout the Middle East during the Eid al-Adha festival. And Hindus sacrifice a host of animals during the Gadhimai Mela Festival. Some of these festivals can be sickening to watch, even for the strong of stomach.
Cultural relativism has its limits. As you travel the world, you become a bit discriminatory. Some things you like, while others you dislike. Your initial rapture with being outside your homeland fades, and you begin judging the merits of a given custom. You feel that some traditions are better than others.
In my experience, the killing of a baby llama is the strangest tradition in the world.
It’s like comparing apples and oranges – a beautiful forest is not a desert, for example.
That being said, my personal favorite is Iguazu Falls in Brazil. 275 waterfalls, crashing down on the Brazil/Argentina border. The spray of water bellowing upward. The continual crashing sound in every direction. Nature’s power on full display.
I’ve been to Victoria Falls in Africa and Niagara Falls in New York – they don’t compare. There is only one Iguazu Falls.
Years ago, I visited a hotel spa in Nong Khai, Thailand. It was a beautiful retreat, situated next to the placid MeKong River. I was drinking a beer and basking in the glory of an hour-long massage. Magical Thailand.
Just then, the owner of the spa emerged. He was a British man, about 6 feet tall with blond hair. Next to him was his Thai wife. He kissed her on the cheek, walked over to me, and sat down. We talked about a variety of things, sharing our travel stories.
Here was my first encounter with a genuine expat. A man who picked up, left his country, and married a foreign woman. He wasn’t on the two-week vacation, the Caribbean cruise. He was the real deal—a modern day pussy pilgrim, looking for love in a distant land.
We spoke for about an hour. Then I got around to the big question, the thing I was dying to know.
“What’s your secret?” I asked.
He got a serious look on his face. He took a sip from a beer, a drag from a cigarette, and leaned forward:
“It’s like the Dali Lama said, my friend—it’s all in your mind.”
I paused a moment….eh, that’s it? That’s the big secret? Really, I was hoping for more: an age-old riddle, a mystery unraveled. But I got the cliche, “It’s all in your mind.” Very disappointing!!
“Thanks,” I told him. “I appreciate the advice.”
Sometimes we have to solve our own puzzle. The question – as well as the answer – is for us to find out.
Lake Patzcuaro sits in the middle of Michoacan, in the Mexican state of Morelia. It’s an indigenous village known for its elaborate Day of the Dead festival. Throughout the village, you will see indigenous women selling their wares: clothing, trinkets, etc. But what sets Patzcuaro apart from the rest of indigenous Mexico, and the rest of Latin America, is a dish they prepare…
Yams with honey.
They simply take a cooked red yam and slather it with honey. That’s it. Simple, yet wonderful.
It’s the perfect combination. Many Americans will put butter atop a yam, which adds a fatty quality to the edible tuber. But when you add honey, it embellishes the sweeter elements of the plant. It takes the yam into the direction it wants to go. The yam wants to be a dessert, to run free with it’s sugary friends.
It’s important to differentiate this dish from American “candied yams,” which are loaded with sugar. The Patzcuaro version does not add corn syrup, brown sugar, etc. It’s just a yam with honey atop of it – nothing more.
Note: I looked online for a photo of the dish, but I could not find one. I have traveled to over 75 countries, and I’ve never seen anybody prepare a yam this way. It’s so uncommon that google images does not have stock photos of it.
But no worries…it’s very simple. Next time you cook a yam, just drench it with honey. That’s all you need to do.