Posts Tagged With: jungle

Name change for this blog? Nah… not for the time being…

Some time ago Kathryn suggested I change the name of the blog since I no longer reside in the jungle. I put this notion under heavy consideration, analyzing all the factors involved in the decision. Yes, I no longer live in the middle of a tropical rainforest, so I could do the change. But.. does it matter? This blog has less than 200 followers at this moment, it never helped me to sell any books that I know of, and it mostly worked as a pressure valve for me to vent when things got really bad in the jungle I was living in. As you may have noticed, the posts are now far in between each other (the last one was about three months ago).

But there will be always post related to my past in the rainforest; I don’t think that a man can live through such a traumatic lifestyle, rife with deprivation and uncertainty for almost 17 years and yet be able to escape unscathed by the experience, so I guess this option outlet must remain open for a little longer. So no changes in the foreseeable future, okay?

One fine example of this is that I’m not sleeping well of late, for I’m having a recurrent nightmare that haunts me these days. In this particular dream I’m back in the outskirts of Caucagua, forced by some unseen power to walk through that accursed town’s winding streets once more. In this dream, I have the strong sensation that I must perform some task, but I’m completely clueless about it.

The start of the dream is not that bad, but quite dreadful; I’m alone in the lonesome gravel roads of Cholondron. Doesn’t sound like much but since way of how this dream will progress is quite familiar to me, I’m already filled with trepidation.

After a while, I enter the town of Caucagua proper, finally seeing the first shacks that mark the edge of this location. I see three local men leaning against the wall of a rancho (my country’s version of a shack made out with metal sheet and whatever building materials the can get their hand on). They’re glaring at me, and I walk past them, doing my best to ignore their threatening looks.

Of course, this doesn’t work at all; a few blocks ahead I meet another similar group… and I notice that the first group of menacing men have been following me all along. You must realize that there are basically two types of dreams; those that you know are having a dream and in which you have a certain level of control, meaning that you may decide to flee or face your fear, therefore changing its outcome. This one is the other kind of dream, in which you can’t alter its flow, no matter what you do. I tried once to outsmart it by confronting these individuals, but that action only accelerated its denouement.

I keep moving through Caucagua’s streets, getting deeper and deeper into its mazelike structure. In every corner I meet another small group of angry men, which are then added to the increasingly larger party of people already pursuing me, which by now is a massive throng. The faces of these guys are full of hatred, an anger directed at me because I never fit this place too well: I’m too different and smart for that.

I’m able to make it back to main street, but this location suddenly becomes a dead end when I meet a brick wall that oughtn’t to be there. It seems it has sprung out of nowhere, blocking my escape. Then I turn around and then I find out I’m surrounded by at least a thousand pursuers. I’m with my back against the wall, and the group slowly closes in around me. Remember Michael Jackson’s Thriller final sequence? My dream is more or less like that.

One of these individuals draws out a sharp switchblade from his pockets. It’s then when I wake up, feeling exhausted and restless, usually at 3 AM in the morning. To top it all, it’s very rare the occasion when I’m able to go back to sleep after such an experience. That’s a nasty way to start a day, folks.

It’s quite fortunate, however, that these days I only have to scoot closer in bed to where my wife is laying next to me to convince myself that this horrible dream is no longer my reality. Kathryn is quite aware of these nightmares; she tells me that I talk loudly in Spanish while I have to live them almost every night.

At this moment I’m more or less writing this post to exorcise my demons (some one, two three! calisthenics and then a few laps around the track… Ooops…. wrong way to exorcise them)…. I hope it works, because all this is whacking my sleep cycle back to the one I had about a couple years back… which isn’t kinda nice…

Well, that’s about it for now, folks

 

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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Dark Tidings…

100_0058

In loving memory of Friederike Stark (7/13/1937-7/3/2016)..

It has been a very rough month; you see, I was told that my mom had died on July the 3rd, just ten days before her seventy-ninth birthday. I hope you never get to deal with the grim details involved with having to perform funeral arrangements from a distance, which is what I’ve been doing for a while.

I had to travel to Houston urgently, mainly because that’s where my home country’s consulate is. There was a lot of paperwork to be done, especially a document that would allow one of my mom’s oldest friends to represent me in my affairs back in that accursed land. Kathryn and I traveled there by bus (airfare proved prohibitive) and we spent two days in Houston until all the legal knots were neatly tied and everything was A-OK (a cozy illusion into which we deluded ourselves; there never is an A-OK state whenever my country is concerned).

All in all, the trip represented a $600 expenditure, including fares, hotel room and the legal costs of composing the document, having it stamped and sending it to my mom’s friend back home. We were lucky that one of our writer friends lived in Houston and could be bothered with driving us around town, which proved of great help. Thanks, Julie.

And thanks to my wife, too, for being there when I needed her. Love you, mi gatita…

Kath and I then returned home, and we paid an exorbitant fee of $75 to send just one sheet of paper to South America. Finally, my mom was laid to rest on July 29th, after almost four weeks of legal wrangling.

But the problem doesn’t end there; my mom died without any kind of insurance, leaving behind her an absolute legal and economic mess. My mom’s friend incurred into a ton of expenses while helping me in this terrible affair; I was able to wire her some money, but I have the strong suspicion that whatever sum I sent her will not suffice. And there’s the additional matter of all my mom’s stuff, the house in the middle of the rainforest and several other assorted knickknacks and legal issues that lay in the wake of someone’s demise while residing in my country.

Sigh.

This just represents a ton of present and future expenses that I can not even begin to fathom at this point. I guess I should consider myself satisfied that my mom has been at least buried, but the feeling of impotence concerning all these extra unfinished business will gnaw at my brain for the longest time.

Anyhow, I set up a crowdfunding campaign to help me cover a few of these expenses. If you guys are willing to assist me, you can share the link ( http://www.gofundme.com/2gzwmxt8 ) around through your social media. That little click you can do to Tweet or Facebook it will be greatly appreciated.

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

 

 

 

 

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RETURN TO MY ROOTS

I’m enjoying a moment of ironic epiphany. Of late, I’m writing once more, which is a great relief since I thought my writer’s mojo had dried up somewhat. The irony is that my current project will be written in the Spanish language, closing the circle I started about three decades, when I was a teenager. I began writing in Spanish, dreaming of perhaps becoming the next Gabriel Garcia Marques… and I’m now doing it again, after oh, so may years.

This story is something I could have easily chosen to write in English, but ever since I toyed with the idea, I had the strongest feeling that language wouldn’t lend itself well to the rather gritty topic, which will be about cockfighting in South America.

The central premise behind this tale is very silly, so I won’t get too deep into it here, but what I wrote so far promises to be my usual writing foolishness, only this time covered with a respectable veneer of prosaic plausibility created by the mere use of the Spanish language. Sigh. I know that in the end no one will ever read it, but no one would have read it in English anyway, so the notion of writing it either language doesn’t matter much. The main thing is that I’m writing again.

Oh, yes. Progress is painfully slow, as I no longer churn out 10 000 words every day as I used to do in the past. Back on those days I had absolutely nothing else to do but write, since I was stuck in the middle of the rainforest. These days I’m more into meaning, rather than bulking my daily output, so it is more like a leisurely pace of maybe 200 or 300 words, 500 tops if I’m able to get into “the zone”, which is the term we writers use to describe that place where we achieve to see every single story detail, event and character with laser-sharp clarity for a brief moment before committing the words to paper.

You know? That was something I really did miss…that instant when my writer’s mind eye is able to take a snapshot of the life of people that don’t really exist, and paint them against the backdrop of improbable places and more impossible times… and yet be capable of making them come to life, fixing all these bogus alternate realities into words.

Yep… I was certainly missing that feeling. I couldn’t wake up that mental eye for the longest time.

All this may not amount to much… but at least I’m writing again…

I’m back in the saddle, which is the only thing that matters…

Edwin Stark
Signing Off

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One last remaining problem…

For the past month my life has improved exponentially; I came to the United States and married Kathryn. The food store is just a couple of blocks over, not a ten-mile walk away. I don’t need to ration anymore. I no longer need to extract coffee from a safe deposit box prior using it. I don’t have to reuse coffee filters at least a dozen times before having to discard them. Electricity is good and stable. The best of all is that I can walk in the streets without fear of being mugged, assaulted or bugged because of how I look.

You paranoids out there may think that sentence sounds silly; that every stranger you meet out in the street is a potential mugger, blah, blah. The problem in this case that was the absolute truth in my home country: due to the ongoing crisis that the accursed place is experiencing, every man, woman and child  is a prospective menace (even toddlers in baby carriage are a threat; one tried to steal my wallet at gunpoint a couple of weeks before I left the country). Scratch all that. Well, yeah, the enhancement of my lifestyle is vast. Of course, there is the huge responsibility of Kathryn’s kids attached to it, but so far we’re doing fine in that department (I think they kinda dig me).

However, one last problem weights me down sometimes; one last bit of a worry that still ties me to that Titanic of a country that Aleveznue is:

My mother.

She’s still on that sinking ship.

For the past six months before I left that accursed place, I tried to convince her to come along. First, I’d settle down and attain my permanent residency, then I’d get a job and then we’d get her started on all the necessary paperwork to follow me. Alas, she was adamant and refused. I kinda understand her decision; to her, bailing out from Aleveznue* would be conceding defeat and that there isn’t anything salvageable from the entire situation.

But she’s a 78-year old woman and she’s stuck in nearly the exact jam in which I was just a couple of months ago. Very, very stuck… which ain’t decent.

It’s not a topic I like to talk about much; every time the topic comes up in conversation, the general consensus is that hopefully (hopefully!!!) my mom will eventually change her mind and decide to tag along. It’s evident they don’t know my momma at all. She’s the kind of woman who would be up late at night, more than four hours past her bedtime, to fix a particularly pesky stitch that wouldn’t come right at the sewing machine. I mean it; she’s a very stubborn woman. Same situation here.

I know precissely what is necessary to be done to convince my mom to come here. Alas, it would be rather costly and probably fruitless, forcing me into more expensive and time depleting maneuvers to finally succeed. Then I have a look at my available funds and that makes me realize there’s no feasible way (not at the moment) to solve this conundrum.

I guess she’ll stay there for a long, long time.

Meanwhile, I worry incessantly…

Edwin Stark

Signing Out

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FEDX YOU! (The Great Paper Chase, Part II)

Okay, major update here… My life for the past six weeks or so has been a whirlwind of events that, even when the dust is settling now, I feel my head is still spinning. Some would say that a tornado had just transported me to the magical land of Oz, but let’s leave it at that

In chronological order, now. And limiting myself to a few events/topics at a time

Yes, my interview at the embassy went fine and I got the K-1 visa issued, no problem there.

Yes, I had some problems getting my passport back since the embassy insisted on using a private courier service to deliver this important travel document (instead of reasonably allowing me to pick up at a convenient time). And the local courier services don’t exactly love me, for they don’t care for my convenience at all while still stuck in the jungle.

As an example, during the month before my visa interview, Kathryn and I had to send back and forth a ton of documents through Fedex (hence the colorful title of this post)… and I ended up doing a lot of phone calls and a lot of walking (twice!) as the local branch basically doesn’t want to deal with the problem of delivering the parcel to me.

First, they argued the place I was in wasn’t in the list of “covered” areas. So Fedex washed its hands by relaying all the papers to another courier service… who doesn’t deliver to the rainforest either, mind you. Of course, this led to the initial flurry of phone calls, as the tracking service that this new company offered through its website was vague at best,  and it was basically reporting that they were ping-ponging the whole silly thing between two different services. Finally (finally!) I was able to convince these idiots to drop the pack of documents in a final pick up point so I could be able to put my grubby ( 😉 )little hands onto it.  Of course, this pick up point was in the most inconvenient of places; thirty miles away and with a typical Aleveznuan address that would make Santa swear off of delivering presents forever: Past the Fireman Station, past the Levi’s Wharehouse, next to the Pandock company. (And believe me, I was half considering Santa as my first choice to deliver these documents, but he only works on Christmas and he’s a fictional character… the same as a reliable Aleveznuan postal service is fictional. mind you). This was particularly. Also, a quick consultation of Google maps didn’t yield any results, as the data is severely outdated… or non-existent.

Luckily, one of my neighbors (a guy who sort of lives at the entrance of this abandoned housing development) knew where this place was and offered to drop me off there on his way to work. While he drove me there, I noticed that the Fire Station gave absolutely no indication that it was such, Levi had closed down its warehouse there and that the Pandock company was no more, If I didn’t have help… how was I supposed to figure that out?

Of course, I had to endure this trip (and all the phone calls it represented) at least two times more… with the main difference of having to deal with a wacky official website to get my passport back… I even had to ask Kathryn for some remote assistance for this!)… And some extra poignancy is in order: my passport was supposedly to be sent my way during the days right after Xmas… and a little before New Year’s Eve… when the entire country is shut down for good till January…

(BTW, this Little ordeal added up another 350 miles to my final mileage count!)

Stay tuned!

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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I have a very bad feeling about this

I start this blog by titling it with my favorite Star Wars quote (apart from “a more wretched hive of scum and villainy” which I use to aptly describe my home country) because I really have a very bad, bad baaaad feeling about The Force Awakens.

It’s okay if you don’t want to believe me, but I had the same sensation when I went to watch the first prequel. The Phantom Menace, and we all know how “great” that particular mess went, don’t we all? Hmmm?

I still recall the hype and the manner in which most Fanboys were making the Internet hum with excitement the last couple of weeks before the first screening ever… “Ohhhh, a new chapter in the SAGA!!! Squeeek!!!” and all that…. but I particulary recall the way how they blasted Lucas’ latest offering afterwards back at the time… “Childish!” “It sucked ass!” “The pod race is padding!” (though I may be remembering it wrong… perhaps the gut who wrote that was saying the “pod race was pudding” but that doesn’t actually make much sense, does it?)

The thing is that I read the whole bunch of reviews back then and I decided to watch The Phantom Menace in spite of all, midochlorians and all… Yeah, well, it had some Star Wars innit…. The lore… Jedi stuff… lightsabers… laser blasts…. two key main characters in their prime… A younger Yoda…. How the trade dispute with Naboo trigger the events of the original trilogy… But it didn’t actually feel like Star Wars, you know what I mean?

Ok, to wrap it up… I liked it (mainly as a writer, but not as a Star Wars fan) because it filled many gaps in the Skywalker’s Family Saga (just don’t ask me what my thoughts of Jar-Jar Binks are, please) but once more, I couldn’t call actually put my fingers on what or where did George Lucas screw up the whole works.

Now, after seeing all the Fanboy Buzzing that The Force Awakens is generating now, I’m having that very bad feeling about it, reliving it, so I may decide to skip seeing it on the big silver screen this time, thank you. I’m especially uncomfortable with the idea of seeing how the heroes of my childhood have grayed and grown fat, wrinkled or gone balding (Chewbacca must have a great hair transplant doctor or buys Grecian Formula by the wholesale to look that way, almost 40 years later!) as it kinda rattles the feelings I have about my own mortality of late, you know…

I guess I’ll satisfy myself with reading the bad IMDB reviews this time..

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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The Great Paper Chase (Part I)

In exactly six days (and 8 hours) I’ll have to wake up at 2 AM in the morning, as I’ll have to board a bus headed for Caracas so I can go to my Embassy interview and fulfill the last step of the road Kathryn and I started nearly a year ago: my K-1 Fiancé Visa.

Yeah, I know it sounds like a great milestone… but what did it entail?

Well, my inner Accountant has kept track of every detail. It took:

16 failed trips to the local bus station from Jan through May, 2015… mostly done through bad roads and bad weather (I nearly caught a cold a couple of times). And when I mean failed I really mean it. I walked the distance between my house and the bus depot only to find out I wouldn’t really make it: if my bus didn’t get out of the station by 4:30 AM, well, just forget it (I recall mentioning somewhere that if I didn’t arrive to the San José Registry before sunrise to start queue-ing, to pick up one of the only 20 numbers those SOBs distributed to citizens who require a Birth or Death Certificate, it would be completely useless trip). @10 miles each trip, you can add up 160 miles walked.

4 succesful trips to the bus station, when I was able to board a bus at 4AM and it departed Caucagua at 4:15 or less…. But which doesn’t mean that I was able to reach the Registry on time… @10 miles each, equals 40 miles walked, plus 100 miles aboard a bus per trip, it represents 200 miles walked + 400 miles on board a bus, equaling 600 miles of travel.

1 successful trip (May 11th) in which I managed to catch one of those measly 20 spots in queue for my Birth Certificate… YAY!!!   @10 miles walked +100 miles by bus, which brings it all up to 710 miles traveled just for a piece of paper.

Wait! It doesn’t stop there! I also had to request a Police Background Check (30 miles by foot to find a cybercafé to print a letter) + 10 more miles walked + 100 miles by bus just to pickup the actual document, totaling 850 miles (250 walked + 600 by bus).

Luckily, I had most of the other documentation at hand in my house: I had taken care of the boarding passes early on, by making some preventive Xerox copies (though one faded a bit because it was printed on thermal paper), plus my High School diploma to prove they weren’t going to bring a completely uneducated moron into America the Beautiful, plus my grades plus plus plus whatever piece of paper that I could think about…. However, what was missing were my vaccination records, for which I can really thank my dad (the SOB actually destroyed them). Finding a decent place in Caucagua to copy all these paper took me another 5 trips to town, adding 50 miles walked to my total score…

Grand total so far: 300 miles walked + 600 miles by bus = 900 miles.

Well, that sort of covers it for this blog post.

Stay tuned to discover how much mileage I did rack up in the end of this oddysey!

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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A Great Writing Tool

It’s customary about writers to share writing tips with each other; I guess it’s my turn now.

However, what I’ll share here isn’t a new piece of software that will turn the output of what your sorry thousand-monkeys-persona writes everyday into Shakespeare, nor a Grammar-Nazi website that will automatically fix your penchant to confuse ‘they’re’ with ‘there’. Also, it won’t allow you to sell a gazillion books overnight.

However, if you truly are a writer, this is a potential tool that might interest you as it is a YouTube channel that could help you fine-tune your plot development skills, as it deals with the horrible way movie screenplayers write by pinpointing every single plot hole, cliché and false logics of all your favorite films. The channel is aptly named CinemaSins.

I can almost taste what you are now thinking: “Waitaminute… Why should I check this YouTube channel? What I wanna is advice to write better books!

Well, if you are following me so far, you should be realizing now how important plot is for a movie, which is just a visual narrative and an alternate way of storytelling. And, please, don’t tell me now that you were never jarred out of a movie by a glaring plot hole or by unnecessarily killing some character over which you grew fond as the show progressed.

Oh, boy! Are these guys merciless! They will grab your favorite film and tear it a new one, calling out every stupid decision, plot hole and structure flaws that the screenwriter/director may have perpetrated there (you better not watch it if you’re a fanboy or something), liberally granting cinema sins at a rate of at least ten per minute… and you certaily know the movie being dissected is at top shape when its final sin count barely goes up to seven or eight of these for each minute elapsed.

I try to watch Sinema Cins… errr.. CinemaSins every time that my craptacular jungle connection manages to cooperate with me, and this YouTube channel is certainly helping me to develop finer, tighter plots for my own books. You should give them a try.

And, oh Heavens… Am I so glad that these two dudes don’t review books… 😉

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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On The Street Where I Live…

Please take note of the following link:

https://www.google.co.ve/maps/@10.300921,-66.3592356,189m/data=!3m1!1e3

If you click on this link, it will take you to a satellite image of the area where I live. Of course, the picture you will see will be only a plain and bare representation of what it actually means. For that, you can examine the pictures below, which are the same as the abovementioned one, but with a few annotations.

For starters, somewhere below this thick canopy of trees lies my house:

Cholomdronaerial

(Of course, if you zoom out and switch to Google’s Map mode, you’ll notice that this place has even failed to make it into the maps).

This next picture shows the land I own down here with a yellow outline (something along the size 38500 square feet!!) … The land outlined in black represent the plots whose neighbors hire me to trim down with just a machete.

cholonland

The next shot shows the entire extent of the failed housing development where I live… yeah, I know it looks rather civilized at this scale but it’s almost completely void of inhabitants. The green outline marks the virgin rainforest where (according to some detractors) I “claim” to live next to. Again, this is another case of “you must be there to really understand” (and believe!!!)

Choloarea

And the last one shows the walking distance I must travel almost everyday for groceries.

Cholocanminata

Please notice the highway that would have made me a moderately rich man (it passes just a mile away from where I bought land!)… if only my country political situation hadn’t gone down the drain, that’s it.

I hope these pictures have provided you additional insights of the reasons behind all the rants I publish on this blog.

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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Jungle Medicine

For the past month or so I’ve had to deal with a very nasty tick bite on my left ankle. It tended to scab up and then the scabs regularly fell off every five days or so, without healing properly and restarting the cycle.

I know, I know… tick bites heal the hard way, but this one was way beyond insidious, so there was the possibility there was still something noxious lurking within. So last week I scrapped the scab with the sharp edge of a blade and then proceeded to burrow deep into the wound and probe with the tip of the tool to make sure. I found nothing, but the reopened lesion began to suppurate a clear substance instead of bleeding, which isn’t a good sign. So I began to squeeze the edges of the injury until the nearby skin began to bruise and blood finally surfaced. Now, six days later, the wound finally scabbed and presently shows signs of healing correctly. It still itches like hell, but it’s well on its way to proper recovery.

Am I mad? Why subject myself to this gruesome treatment? Shouldn’t I go to a hospital and have a doctor have a look at the bite, and then prescribe some sort of antibiotics?

Well, the answers are quite simple: 1) I’m on the edge of a jungle and 2) this is the only available medical procedure I can allow myself to have since A) the good doctors have already fled the country (leaving only a bunch of quacks to consult) and B) antibiotics?!? Ha! Don’t start me on discussing those! (Absolutely scarce nowadays, if you need to know).

It’s not the first time since I moved to the jungle that I had to perform a quick fix up or impromptu surgery on myself.

There was the time I scratched my arm badly with rusty barb wire, so I had to intramuscularly give myself a tetanus shot. And there was the occasion when a lemon thorn went so deep within my thumb that it got infected and then I had to carve an X with a shaving blade across the wound’s lips. And I mean digging really deep, like one-third of an inch to reach the infected spot and help the injury weep.

 

Of late, I had to hunt down for the Hepatitis-B and Trivalent immunization shots for a week before I was able to get a hold of them (requisite for the plans that Kathryn and I have been arranging for the past ten months or so. BTW, the nurse who gave me the shots had a heavy-handed approach with the syringe when she jabbed my arms with the needle; she even made me bleed from her clumsy stabbings). Do you think is fair that I have to hunt down the last eight remaining shots in the entire country, when you just walk into your doctor’s office and ask for them, anywhere else in the world?

And I’m supposed to be the mad one… *chuckles*

Okay… rant’s over.

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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