Exploring Family History on the Death Road


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.

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 …


… 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

Time or Money?

time or money question_marcandangel blog

Lately, life’s been hectic, I’ve grown quite un-fond of computer screens, and … well, I’ve had a bit of blogger’s block to top it all off.

But I feel like it’s during these times when the days just seem to be passing by in a tired blur that we have to refocus and re-spark our love for life! So as I was scrolling through some inspirational questions for this post, my eye landed on this one: Time or money?

I feel like most people’s gut reaction would be to say: “Time!”

I know that for me, it is. That’s because I have spent much of my life without time — and when I say “time”, I mean time outside of work and school. It was only a few months ago that my life finally consisted of having just one full-time job. That’s it. No school. No second or third part-time job. Free evenings. Free weekends.

I just didn’t know what to do with myself.

Well, I quickly figured it out. After the first Saturday of sitting on the couch staring at the TV and asking myself if there was some work that I should be doing, I smacked myself across the face and yelled: “There is no work to do! Enjoy your free time!” (I think this conversation was happening in my head).

Once it had sunk in, I started going all out. I could pick up some hobbies! Singing! Playing guitar! Writing! I had time for it all! I could visit my friends and family more often! I could sit on the couch on Sunday and watch football for the entire day! 

I could also just *gasp* do nothing!I

My God, this was what I had been missing out on all these years. This was how other people were living.

Now, that may sound like the conclusion of the story, but alas, it is not. During this time of activity and exuberance, I had still thought about getting a part-time job to be able to pay off my student loan faster and save more for the future. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it after having gotten a taste of the good life.

But while I by no means consider myself to be a greedy, materialistic person, I do recognize that there are certain things that could add to the quality of my life right now that do require money over time.

So, I don’t know. Maybe the question isn’t so easy to answer. Maybe now is (still) the time to put in that extra work in order for me to feel more settled and secure a little ways down the road. And to also be able to continue going on trips around the world and drinking fine scotch guilt-free! Those things make me happy too ;)

Take a few minutes to ask yourself: Time or money? 

Write a post about it, share it in the comment box below, or just keep it to yourself ;)

– Cafe <3

Photo Credit: Question 15

Is Blogging a Waste of Time?

In the past few days, three things happened that made me question: Am I wasting my time blogging?

1. I read an article by the Blog Tyrant titled “Why Blogging is a Waste of Your Time.”

2. One of my newest visitors, Whitt, left a very thought-provoking comment on being addicted to blogging after reading about my self-imposed 4-day social media ban.

3. I came across the Freshly Pressed post “Revenge of the Ping” by cheerful.egg about the weapons of mass distraction that we need to learn how to say “NO!” to.

Were the greater powers that be staging an intervention?

Just say no.

Why would blogging be a waste of time?

Most people would say it’s because it takes away from doing other things — meaning other, more productive things.

To me, blogging is productive in many ways and really fulfills a creative need that I can’t always get elsewhere. But sometimes I’m not entirely sure if I’m starting to cross the line again.

It’s a good thing to check-in with yourself on this from time to time. And if you do feel like you might be wasting a lot of time on blogging, here’s some ideas on how you might be able to keep up your blog without sacrificing all of your precious time:

1. Post on the bus. I’ve spent many a bus and subway ride typing up blog post drafts in my Blackberry notes (if I wasn’t doing that, I’d be passed out in my seat).

Email myself the note, copy and paste into WordPress, and with some minor edits, I have a new blog post ready to go and don’t have to spend time creating a whole new work of art right there on the spot.

This goes for any other time you might be sitting around waiting by yourself — like for a doctor’s appointment, or for that significant other who is always late.

2. Post less often. Some people like to post something once a day, sometimes multiple times a day. If you have time for it and that’s what you want to do, do it. But if you’re finding that it’s taking up way too much of your time, schedule a post for every two, three or even four days.

There’s a plus side to this too. There’s a better chance that more of your readers will get to read each blog post you put out there. As much as I love my blogroll, there’s no way I can keep up anymore with reading every post that each person writes, especially if they post every day.

3. Get a guest blogger. I don’t recommend doing it all the time, because at the end of the day your followers are following YOU and want to read what YOU have to say. But if you know someone who has something interesting to say about the topics you tend to blog about and are willing to keep up with replying to comments, it can provide a nice little break for you.

4. Simplify some of your posts. Take a photo of something interesting and just write one paragraph about it. Sometimes people would rather just look at intriguing images than take the time to read a lot of text.

I’ll try to take my own advice on this and not to say so much all the time … after this post ;)

5. Do something just to blog about it. I know it sounds kind of weird, but go out and do something that you might not normally do just for the sake of blogging about it. If you can’t pry yourself away from writing up a next post, at least make it a point to get out there and experience something new, interesting and/or exciting that you can tell all your readers about.

Make blogging the motivation to do “real” stuff, rather than let it hinder you from experiencing those things. This way, you won’t feel guilty about wasting your time and you’ll probably have a kick-ass post to blog about!

– Cafe <3

Do you feel like blogging is taking up too much of your time? What are your tips for balancing your blog life with real life?

Back From Hibernation. Hello World!

Wassuuuuup! Cafe in da house! I feel like I’ve been teleported back into life as we know it. It was seriously a very strange four days away from anything social media, email, and especially the blogosphere!

As most of you know, I had taken it upon myself to swear a vow of abstinence from WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, BBM, YouTube, and even emails for four days. It had just seriously felt like my life had come under the control of the Crackberry and I had to do something drastic about it.

SO. Are you ready to go through my four-day hibernation journey with me? Alright, here we go! …

Day 1 — Monday

Day 1 really started on Sunday evening when I sent off my final updates and messages and then laid the Crackberry to rest. I actually felt relief. I felt this weight off my shoulders. I literally had a big smile on my face. I watched TV for the rest of the evening, not worrying about having to hear the incessant *pinging* throughout. I knew I had made the right decision to do this crazy thing I had decided to do.

Monday rolled around. One of my rules was that if I wanted to write about anything (that was not work-related), it would have to be handwritten in a notebook. This was just another way to get me away from my laptop. Out came the journal I had written four pages in since I bought it months ago. The writing began …

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Goodbye, Social Media

Today, what had been fluttering around in the back of my head for a few weeks became solidified into the concrete epiphany that I spend way too much time on social media.

I am constantly being fed instant updates by The Crackberry on new Facebook comments, Twitter notifications, emails from both my Hotmail and Gmail accounts, including messages informing me that I have received new comments on WordPress. I am also constantly hooked up to the internet via my Crackbook (i.e. Macbook). And I just created a new Facebook page for this blog!

While this all seemed to be under control earlier in the year, I now feel as though it’s become my second life. Researcher by day, unstoppable Crackberry Addict by night.

Well, no more, I say. Here and now, the insanity stops.

You’ve been very, very bad.

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