Found a cheap flight to the bay for one of very few weekends open to meet up with some of my workaholic (and other) friends in the Bay. The whole Bay area has this vibe that is really fascinating, and quite wonderful. Maybe because so many subcultures I am/was involved in are overrepresented…Is it possible to like both LA and SF? Is that allowed? While I feel most people when they talk shit on LA, two things bother me and this trip exemplified them. There is tons of traffic in the Bay and the public transportation is not all that. It’s good, but it is not worlds above LA. Is it better utilized? Yes. Is it also more expensive? Definitely. If you live and kick it in SF, that is one thing, because all you really need is a bike ride away. But, from anywhere else, dare I say, the Bay is ‘so spread out’? You have to take BART ($$$) or drive ($$ and traffic all hours of the day). Was it horrible? Not at all. But, its not the glorious car-free mecca that people make it out to be when they talk shit on Los Angeles.
Friday was able to hit up
Maggie Muds for some vegan ice cream and then did some hiking in Bernal Heights. I was on one hour of sleep, so we didn’t do much outside of seeing Tim for dinner in the Piedmont section of Oakland.
Picking our breakfast in a garden definitely rules, as do warm, sunny days, anywhere you are. Fresh mint tea and chillin with the chickens. Hanging out with ‘foodies’ that are not strictly vegan adds an element all of us vegans need to think about. How does GMO soy, a cash crop from Brazil, compare to eating eggs from chickens running free in a backyard? Which is better for the earth or its inhabitants? I am not questioning the ethics of veganism, but most vegans’ understanding of or (lack of) concern about food systems. Check out the Buy Fresh, Buy Local link on my sidebar to see what I am talking about. And not to mention that most vegans I know could eat a much healthier diet.
What else? Rode an S-Works at XfrankX’s bike shop, hiked in the Berkeley hills and fell asleep at the top, reconnected with some tight friends, ate at a vegan Japanese restaurant (Chaya’s), saw a crazy variety show in a bar with plays, skits and a dude eating a light bulb.
Ever think ‘This is a really bad idea. We shouldn’t do this. There is still time to back out.’? Usually, I would do so. A voice in the back of my head this time (which was slightly mumbled and maybe British) said, ‘Come on, it’s an adventure. What’s the worse that could happen?’. It was boxing day, a strange Kiwi holiday the day after chirstmas, and Matt Pro and I were suppose to leave the next day for a 3-day, 300-mile bike tour from Christchurch to Nelson (a beach town on the northside of the south island). The problem was, we had one road bike, one fixed gear (49×16, mind you) and a broken single-speed mountain bike. No racks. No panniers. Bonnie, one of Matt’s friends I had met, was planning the trip, but we did not know the other two guys. Neither had bike toured, one didn’t really ride bikes. Yeah. We managed to scrape together four panniers and a rack and Matt bought another rack. We decided to take the fixed instead of my broken bike.
Matt Pro has an adoptive family here in Christchurch that has taken him in. They are friends of a friend and they say you can’t choose your family, but if he could of chose his adoptive family I don’t think he could of done any better. He is there for all the holidays and tends to go over quite a bit just to chill out. Also goes for the Kiwi tradition of getting the barbi (BBQ) going, which seems to happen every day in the summer. The picture on the right is of 13-month old Tahunuiarangi, Dave (grandfather) and Josie(mom).
We spent x-mas eve chilling out and watching a lot of tv including Sione’s Wedding and No 2 , both are choice and I’d recommend them, especially the former. Also watched Bro-town, a funny animated show from here in NZ about 5 kids growing up here in Morningside.
When we rolled up X-mas morning to go over to Pat’s (grandmother) brother’s place they had gifts not only for him, but for myself as well. Josie and her (american) husband regularly get chocolates for the family and they went out of their way to get Matt and I dark chocolate. There are these huge bars of Ghana chocolate that has been imported since 1896. Yum. They were happy that I had mine half-eaten before we even ate lunch.
For the x-mas meal they made us a huge plate of broiled vegetables that included pumpkin, potatoes and kumara. Kumara is sweet potato-esque, but much better. Not as sweet and has an entirely different texture than any potatoes I have eaten. Had some pasta and veggie sausages as well. I didn’t cook anything, which was nice, but odd. In the picture below you can see x-mas crackers (not the people), which apparently is a tradition as well. Is this so for anyone else? I’ve never seen it. I also never had cranberry sauce with Thanksgiving, so what do I know? There are toys and jokes inside which made the meal a bit more lively than otherwise may of been.
Another sort of tradition, since it is summer here over x-mas, is the ‘X-mas day water gun fight’. Matt and I stayed inside the best we could to the taunts that the americans are ‘weak’. The others managed to soak each other pretty well.
The house we were at for x-mas is in what I considered a normal suburb, but Matt informed me that it is not a regular suburb, but a ‘lifestyle bloc’. It is close enough to Christchurch that you can commute there for a regular job, but large enough that you can still have animals and maintain some of traditional rural Kiwi culture. Behind the house were some fenced off sheep (four of the 43 million on the two islands, more than 10 for every person) and some chickens in what I guess would be a coop. I’ve never seen a chicken coop, but I imagine a place where you keep chickens can be a chicken coop so that’s what it is in my mind.
It just dawned on me that I spent Christ’s birthday in a town called Christchurch. That is especially funny; this is the most secular country I have ever been in and well, I am obviously not religious. Apparently the city is named after one of the schools at Oxford one of the original settlers went to. Why don’t they change it? The place is so non-religious that I don’t think anyone cares. I am going to try to post some images of the city in a separate post. For now enjoy the sheep:
Went to Portland to see Vmaas, Lisa and Ryan Jacob Smith. Spent a lot of time at Food Fight the vegan grocery store. I did a talk on vegan nutrition though Vmaas and Chad spent most of the time pointing out how many donuts I ate every day. Listen guys, I was training for the marathon and needed the extra calories.
Collared shirt makes me an expert
‘Hey look, it’s Fidel Castro’. No one at the Microcosm film fest thought my joke was funny. Vmaas thought it was funny enough to make this picture. Thanks man.
Hugo Chavez, the leftist president of Venezuela, won the referendum here on Sunday with 58% of the vote. We spent the day hanging out in Caracas watching the long, long lines (most people spent 5 to 8 hours waiting to vote) in an awesome neighborhood called Sabana Grande. People had to vote either Si or No for the referendum pushed by the right wing opposition groups. A vote for ´No´ is a vote for Chavez and the continuation of his presidency. After the polls closed at midnight we left the ‘No’ camp we had been hanging out with, who had just sung Happy Birthday to Colleen, and took a cab to the presidential palace.
The situation there was AMAZING. Thousands and thousands of people in the streets, hanging off of trucks and from balconies, chanting and screaming and dancing. We milled around for about 3 hours till our group split up with 3 going back to our hotel and Colleen and I staying behind. We watched some of the bands perform and followed the news on the big screen TV while munching on popcorn. Keep in mind that at this point it is about 4am and the streets have not emptied. Old people and children alike passed the time singing, dancing, and eating. When the report came out that Chavez won the place erupted. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. People hugged us and I could see tears in people’s eyes. It was strange to be at a political event where the side we are pulling for actually wins. And even odder that it is the state we are cheering for! Chavez has been a thorn to the US since he was first elected in 1998 by de-privatizing the oil industry and pouring money into social programs for the country’s poorest people. When the rightwing attempted a coup a couple of years ago the US recognized it immediately, though they continue to not fully recognize Chavez who has been democratically elected 3 times.
After the announcement of the win the soldiers opened the gate to the presidential palace and the crowd swormed in. I look up and we ended up directly under the president’s balcony. After about 5 minutes of anticipation Chavez opened the doors and appeared on the balcony. Everyone went absolutely nuts. The chant of the pro-Chavez groups, ‘Uh! Ah! Chavez no se va!’ (which translates as Chavez wont go) was deafeningly loud. We stood and listened to his speech with the supporters even as rain started coming down around 5am. He mentioned the significance of the election of other left leaning presidents in Latin America and then said, ‘Fuera Bush de la casa blanca’ (Out Bush from the white house). Everyone around us looked at us and when we repeated it everyone cheered. Eventually we pushed through the crowd and avoided the kids on motorcycles and hailed a cab back to the hotel. This night was one of the most exciting moments of my life! Venezuela will forever be in my mind and I feel that much closer to what happens here. I am sure I will be back soon.
We arrived in Caracas safely on Monday afternoon and found a cheap hotel in the University area. We ate at a rad veggie restaurant and then chilled in the center area and drank and ate this fruit ice cream stuff. Apparently the area we stayed in there is not the safest. 3 of th 5 peeps I am with went out that night and met up with some random kids. One of them got a gunned pulled on them and then they said they absolutely had to take a cab back to the hotel cause it was unsafe to walk after dark.
On Tuesday we took a RAD bus ride over the mountains to an amazing beach town. Today we chilled out on the beach most the day eating fried plantains and drinking coconut water. It is picture perfect, clear water, palm trees, and mountains in the background. Tomorrow we are taking a boat to some exclusive beach and Friday doing a trip in the mountains.
Sunday we are returning for the elections because we met some cool peeps from the Chavez camp who are going to take us around. It may be crazy there, I will try to update before then. Super rushed right now!