About Cafe

Welcome to the cafe. Join me for a coffee and a good chat about music :)

Exploring Family History on the Death Road

death-road-camino-de-la-muerte-bolivia-los-yungas-mountains

While my fellow Torontonians partake in ribfests and fireworks to pay homage to the birth of our Motherland, I sit here on the couch, sipping some red, as my mind wanders off to another region of the world (sorry, Canada).

Los Yungas. The lush, green rainforest that stretches across Peru, Bolivia and Northern Argentina. Teeming with colourful flora and weird and wonderful fauna, it is accessible from the city of La Paz in Bolivia via the deadliest road in the world, “la Camino de la Muerte” (the Death Road).

About 50 years ago, a Korean family consisting of nine siblings and the parental heads ventured across the world from their home country to South America. (The tenth sibling would later join them). They landed in the Los Yungas valley.

My mom was eight at the time, third youngest of the siblings. Although most of the family later moved to La Paz where they opened a clothing business, my mom stayed in the rainforest for another year with her father.

They would frequently make the trip to La Paz and back, and the whole family would sometimes journey to the Yungas for restful getaways. Which meant a lot of Camino de la Muerte for my mom.

My mom remembers how unregulated the Death Road was back then, absent of guardrails and vehicles having to play the passing game when the road became too narrow to constitute a two-way. (Don’t think too much has changed there, ma).

She also recalls trucks filled to the brim with oranges and people sitting on top of the oranges as they zoomed towards their destination on the winding road.

I remember hearing about these stories when I was much younger, but back then I didn’t comprehend the global infamy of the Death Road. After days of travel research, I now find myself in awe that this rugged journey — that thrill-seekers from all over the world pay bike tours to take them on — was just a part of life for my mom.

Yes, a significant piece of my family history puzzle lies in Bolivia. Thus, Bolivia is where I must go.

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Visiting “the heart of South America” was barely a shade of a dream a couple years ago. I could only hazily envision myself in what I conjured up to be a dusty town where old Bolivian señoras in their bowler hats sold fresh fruits and nuts in open markets.

But today, the dream has actualized itself into a plan. It won’t happen tomorrow, but I’ve sketched out a pretty solid draft of my future explorations in what I consider to be the Third Motherland.

While I’d love to do the typical tourist traps, like Salar de Uyuni, I also want to be able to travel slow and really immerse myself in Bolivian life and culture. And, of course, I want to visit the Yungas and experience an important part of my mom’s childhood.

Now I just need to work up the courage to face the Death Road …

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… and maybe stop watching stuff like this:


If you were to explore your family history and culture, where in the world would your journey take you?

– Cafe <3
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Radio Silence in Cuba: Digitally Disconnecting

sol-cayo-santa-maria-resort-beach-ocean Last month, I flew off to Cuba to immerse myself in sun, sand, and most importantly, radio silence for seven full and glorious days.

Life had been feeling like a knotted ball of stress and my phone wouldn’t stop blowing up with endless emails, texts and other things that pinged.

Something had to be done to quiet both my mind and the CrackBerry, and it had to be done now!  (Hm, does this call for social media hibernation sound familiar to you?)

Well, during those seven days, I was on the internet for a mind-blowing total of — wait for it — ONE hour. On the resort, one might typically find me sitting alone at the beach bar with a strawberry slushy in hand, quietly gazing off into the white sands with a peaceful twinkle in my eye.

I didn’t want parties and I didn’t want to gorge myself in all-you-can-eat-and-drink madness. Taking in the beautiful, concrete-less scenery or having a good conversation with one of the resort staff to learn more Spanish or about Cuban life were all that my little ol’ heart desired.

Time inched by at an insanely slow speed.  It was magical.

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The view while sipping on my daily dose of java. Morning coffees have never tasted quite the same *sniff*  

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Janice on Song Talk Radio! And Twitter!

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Hey cafe goers!

So I’ve been fluttering around the big ‘ol Twitterverse lately, doing some live tweeting for a local university radio show called Song Talk Radio.

I’m so in love with the show because it’s all about exploring one of my favourite things in the entire world — ah, no, not fine, single malt scotch, but close(!) — songwriting!

I was actually a guest on Song Talk Radio last month and played a few of my originals (including a new song, “Dance Without Judgement”, live in studio)!  The best part about Song Talk is actually being able to discuss the songwriting process in an intelligent and interesting way — as you know I love to do ;)

And that’s because the hosts — Phil, Bruce and Neel — are so knowledgable about the vast world of music that I often feel like I’ve been living under a very heavy rock.  Plus, they’ve got the kind of laid-back, witty banter going on that has hooked me into hanging out with them every week to tweet for the show!

So here’s the podcast with my Song Talk Radio interview if you want to actually hear the voice behind this blog :)

If you’re also chirping away on Twitter, come join me for the live chat: @SongTalkRadio!  I’ll actually be tweeting in about an hour from now (Monday at 7 pm EST)! [Note: Song Talk is now on Tuesdays at 7!]

And here’s my personal Twitter nest that has a fully-functional coffee machine so we can continue our caffeine-induced chats no matter where we are!: @JaniceHoTweets

See you in Twitter Land! :)

– Cafe <3

“Ghost Town”

Your heart’s a ghost town
Drive by baby, ain’t a soul to be found
Think there’s a hole in your chest
‘Cause the beating’s at rest
Let me give you a temporary fix
To start it up again

– Cafe <3

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This was my second collaboration with The Butcher (check out the first one here).

I insisted that we make this a duet — he has one of my favourite voices ever.  Thanks to today’s digitally-connected world, a guy from Germany and a girl from Canada can do just that :)

The Art of Collaboration

The first time I collaborated with someone on writing a song together was about a month and a half into my songwriting journey, just over a year ago.

It was such a nerve-wrecking idea that I would be adding my own creation to someone’s else’s creation in the hopes of making it bigger and better!

Well, I have to say that partnering up with Adam Boddy was just about the best introduction I could have asked for to the art of collaborating.

What makes an awesome collaboration partner?  Someone who is a good communicator and responsive (in terms of timeliness and giving constructive feedback), as well as encouraging and honest. It also helped that we both just happened to be on the same page about a lot of things!

It doesn’t always come that easy though.

Some of you have heard our song “For Simone” before but I’m putting it up now as I’m currently into a new collaboration and needing to find some inspiration somewhere! Anywhere!

I guess it’s this way with anything in life — sometimes you have to work with people who maybe don’t do things the way you normally do.  And you’re given a challenging task and could use all the encouragement and feedback that you can get … but, instead, there is silence on the other end.  [Cue the cricket chirp].

Well, we can always learn something from the experience though and use it to better our half of being a collaborative partner.  Always a silver lining to everything!

Have you ever had a challenging collaboration that you worked your way through?

– Cafe <3