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 …

camino-de-la-muerte-2

… 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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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

Now and Then: What’s Changed with the World?

good_and_bad_changes_since_you_were_a_kid

I can still remember when I used to type on a typewriter. The old school kind with no white-out tape. When you made a mistake it was the worst shit ever. You’d tear out that piece of paper, virtually all white space but for two sentences and the big fat error, and fling it with fury into the garbage to start all over again.

There are other things about back-in-the-day technology (DOS operating system, anyone?) that make me feel slightly ancient now when I see small infants playing on their iPhones.

I feel really ancient when I find myself thinking: I am not going to allow my future kid to have those things at such a young age and be busting it out at the dinner table.

(Well, they won’t be busting it out at the dinner table if they don’t have it in the first place, so forget I said the second thing …)

But you know what I’m sayin’.

Is all this new technology necessarily a bad change the world has gone through? No. But it certainly is strange — and nostalgic — for me to have grown up both in the generation of rotary telephones and in the generation of the technology/social media boom.

When the following generations grow up knowing only a world of high-speed, digital communication and advanced technological entertainment, how will they, as people, be different from their … um … forefathers? (I know, ancient talk lol).

– Cafe <3

Take a few minutes to ask yourself: What are some ways — good and bad — that the world has changed since you were a kid?

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

Photo Credit: http://thoughtquestions.com/archives/3725

My New Year’s Resolution is to Keep My New Year’s Resolution

Happy 2013, everyone! Are you ready to kick off the new year with a big bang? Or do you find yourself starting this January sleepily dragging your behind back to work? Let’s wake up and get excited for bigger and better things, people!

So truth be told, I actually haven’t made a New Year’s resolution. I can’t remember the last year that I did. There’s two reasons why I’ve bowed out for 2013. The first is that I feel like I’ve gained enough motivation and momentum from 2012 to continue bettering myself in the new year without any pre-defined goals.

And secondly — as the title implies — I don’t have the greatest track record for keeping the NYRs that I have made. I don’t think most of us do.

Canadians New Years Resolutions 2011 Toronto Star

Of the friends I’ve asked, almost all don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions. To them, NYRs merely represent “empty promises”. But there are a couple who have set some lofty goals, including the second top NYR of last year: to quit smoking. And I actually believe that they have a good chance of sticking to it.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t typically goals that we can attain with the snap of our fingers. Inspired by the “fresh new start” that apparently comes delivered on January 1st, many of us pump our fists in the air with newfound purpose and declare: “Yes, I can!” At least for the time being it seems like anything is truly possible.

But somewhere along the way — a week later, two, three months into the grind — our resolve wilts like flowers in the harsh, winter snow. The NYR that was becomes no more.

new-years-resolution-list

So how is it that some people are able to achieve what they’ve set out to do for an entire year? Are they a special breed? Do the ones who make it to the end choose resolutions that were just easier to resolve?

I can’t give you the answers. I’m not one of these people. Doesn’t mean that I’m not inspired or want to improve myself this year. I’m just not ready to set anything in stone right now ;)

Calvin and Hobbes New years resolution comic

What’s your New Year’s Resolution? And what does it take to see one’s NYR through to the end of the year?

– Cafe <3

Credits: Canadians’ NYRs statsJanuary list comicCalvin and Hobbes comic

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. Continue reading