Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Movement over Statis

I'm currently poking in and out of a book highlighting the Irish role in saving medival Europe and the western world from the dark ages via Catholic monks hand copying and stowing away manuscripts. The author makes a fine point about how historians focus to much on stasis (eg. classical period compared to medival times) rather than movement (classical period to medival times). The transition from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning is such a movement it demands to be described in no uncertain terms.
Tuesday morning, I wake up unshowered from the night before but more knowledgeable about the slow assimilation of Gauls into Roman society. I pass on a cold morning shower. We go to work in downtown San Golqui (SAN Goo-AL-key). The day wraps early with much accomplished. Dave, Zach, Chad and I take a cab downtown.
A casino in the heart of the Mariscol Sucre district called Casino Monte Cristo is visited. All play black jack. I come back from the brink of $2 to reclaim all but $2 of the $30 I've played during the night. Rest assured, my honed intuition makes up for my infantile ability with simple arithmatic. I attempted to play a little Texas Hold'em but ironically, the rules were nothing like Texas rules. In any case, I'm a methodical black jack player: always double down when enough ahead, splitting is for crazies, let 14-16 ride, it pays to be insured, don't care about anybody else at the table and most importantly don't drink the free booze. I had about 4 or 5 glasses of agua con gas, much to the jargin or table wait-staffer. We also saw someone who may or may not be Werner Herzog.
After the casino, we went for a determined stroll through the streets leading toward Avenue Amazonas (so named for the turbulent flow of alcohol and the females that cavalcade it's burrows). I was determined to find hummus at a local Indian or Greek hole in the wall. fallafel was all that was left but a battle had been won in the search fro local hummus when discovering from a helpful Peruvian named Fracno that the hummus would be ready first thing in the morning.
Franco, who is by practice a tour guide in and through and around Peru, keyed me in on a good rate for a safe hostel on what would be the Quito equivilent of 6th street in Austin (only, trust me here, not as fun or large, despite other's claims). During the day, however, Ave. Amazonas proper does offer international cuisine on the cheap, English and differently-languaged book stores, cafes and not one but two art supply stores. The avenue at night, however is a different story. Sundown shoos away the crowds of timid still-in-schoolers and mid-life-tourists, making way for a mixed bag of swat cops, whores, thrill seekers, shoutings-leerers, party girls, party guys, backpackers looking for a lodge, stewarts of good street-trashing, pleeted vallet parkers, cabbies, lost Americanos and savy Europeans. Of course take any one of those and tack on the suffix "who also sells drugs" or "will steal all your money" and you're a bit closer to a picture of the scene. But honestly, as in all places of the night, a level head and mental geography of the area significatnly cuts the risk of any uncomfortable entanglements.
So I spent my transition from Tuesday to Wednesday talking to a Peruvian tour guide, finding a hostel for the upcoming week of the Cotapoxi climb (which I'm declining to take part of due to potential personal health concern), got to know some cute girls from Wisconsin who are planning on attending the Austin City Limits music festival and are now going to visit Barton Springs and drive all over the East Side looking for pizza stands and record stores, talked to the police about the levels of inebriation a person may traverse while attempting not to act drunk and so on.
Essentially, the drinks are (practically) free and the danger is abliging. I've tried to spend much of my time down town finding attractive wallflowers to share a beer with or any Brit who's pissed and wants to tell me all about it. The club scene isn't so much intimidating as it is 2-dimensional for me. I'd rather quip with some Londoner or sneak flirts in with travel tips to a gringa. I'm looking forward to spending a few relaxing days in the Sucre center of Avenue Amazonas until we move to the coast.
I've discovered why the bites on my legs and the cuts on my arms are healing (or not) at a dramatically slowed rate: lack of oxygen to the white blood cells due to altitude. Coming from an average height of barely to not above sea level, I've been feeling my altitude day to day. Other than the scrapes that will join the collection on my paws, I'm feeling fine. My cold has resided to morning coughing and night time sniffling. I'm now back to practicing no-meat, no-dairy Vegetarianism. There's no hooky philosophy behind this return to diet, not if you don't count "not eating the things that make my stomach feel like it went a round with Cassius Clay".
The Mitad del Mundo museum was a complete bust. Think all the junk stores and food-stands of Epcot Center without the attractions. This is apt however because the fair-like grounds that contain the middle of the earth monument are incorrectly charted. Around 250 meters down the road lies the true magnetic coordinates of 00'00"00. There, a half antropological survey/half side-show of indigenous cultures beckons sticklers of true global positioning accuracy to blow a dart gun at a cactus leaf 10 yards away (hit it) and balance an egg on the head of a ridged nail (balanced it, got a certificate).
I'm still searching for a decent sounding, solid bodied and reasonably priced classical guitar. I still have to visit the Vogel factory, which makes custom hand-made cutaways with superb pickups. So far, my biggest excuse to spend more of my non-travel money is a DVD store which sells copied DVDs of more classic films than you could possibly hope to purcahse at Best Buy. I'm talking $1 for Criterion Collection films.
I have yet to attempt any transaction with CopaAir or Continental about changing my flights to return 2 weeks ahead of schedual in mid-July. I miss my dog a lot. My Spanish is getting a lot better.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Routine, My Time & The Plan

The Film Shoot:
At around 7:00 am Chad wakes me up by stating my name and the fact that I need to record sound again today on the film. I get up, slide into probably dirty clothes and eat 2 cups of dry cereal and a banana. Taking my showers in the evening prior to tomorrow's morning, I'm afforded about 20 free minutes to play guitar or make tea. Around 7:30, all eleven of crew and two actors fit almost comfortably into a Toyota Land Rover and drive to mid-town Quito, downtown San Golqui or perhaps the nearest bit of mountain slope. Shooting begins promptly and We shoot until noon or so then eat lunch together for around 40 minutes. We then resume shooting until wrap, around 5pm or 6pm. If I choose to stay with the crew after wrap (and not wander around Quito for a few hours) we all climb back aboard the vehicle and make our way back to the concrete house across the road from the foster home and school. Dinner is usually a loose 7:30pm at a friend of the school's and the wife of our some-times chauffer Acturo's wife's house. Dinner is filling and local. We then retire to a dizzying night of drawing each other in our sketch books and playing the only decent guitar I've played since Mishauilli. I wash up. I go to bed around midnight or 1 am.

My Time:

When I wake up, I feel very cold because my sheets are some how inexplicably under my bed. I ruffle out of my mosquito net to find my cold glasses, missing a nose pad and causing a fair-sized scab on my nose. Zombie-walking into the kitchen, I find my cup with my name on it somehow moved to the other side of the sink. I get the most sugar-laced cereal and chew down two quick cup-fulls. The trip at least affords me my normal breakfast behavior. People are joking in the kitchen but I don't understand why because I'm freezing. A jacket wasn't even considered when I was packing. Ecuador is not southern Mexico; it's an alien terrain that is inhabited by the ghosts and shadows of the true intentions of marketers and advertisers. The culture has consumed logos and mascots like religious icons and relics. I stick my cold hands under my shirt and down my pants, searching for any lingering signs of a week long outbreak of what may or may not have been scabies. The shampoo may have done the trick. By the time I pinball around eleven other guys in the kitchen, boil water and make some tea I'm burning my lips stumbling out the door. All preceded and followed by six or so "Is all your sound stuff together?" It is.
There are four of us in the very back, side-angled seats of the car.
My mind is constantly elsewhere: Austin, LA, HEB, music, reading, warmer weather. The film doesn't get in the way of enjoying my foreign setting. I find it easy to focus on funny little things and draw infinite comparison and critique to everything from mall food court menus to the number of miscellaneous stickers on buses. I've stopped eating meat here, more or less. I'll never turn down a good tuna fish sandwich but meat here is giving me terrible stomach aches. I assume this might be due to my rampant on-and-off vegitarianism that was on for the two and a half months prior to leaving. It's an easy enough task to accomplish and already I feel all the better. My cold is the only lingering malady, which antihistamine's impotency towards leads me to believe it's just something local I have to deal with.
The days aren't long, not relative to production work. Ripped $1 DVDs have become a boon of entertainment played on huddled around laptops. The draft makes the night cold on the mountains and the concrete home we live in until July 6th cools quickly after sundown.
This is a plastic bottle of water place. This is my peanut butter and banana sandwich view of a rice, chicken and potato country. Ecuador has only suprised me by the effect of a culture of gloabalism spread vast and deep. There's been little question of what exactly our activities have been in the jungle or on the streets, only a polite query as to if our footage is for Discovery Channel or BBC. If you don't know any Spanish, you'll have an infinitely easier time asking for a commercial product you're accustom to in the States than asking someone where a good local resturant is. I was taught, well so, in high school that by saying America, you're rightly referring to everything contained from the top of the uninhabitable ice lakes of Canada to the equally cold rock of Tierra Del Fuego. America does not refer to the United States of America when you don't surround yourself with people who'd not think differently about the term. As I'm seeing it, Ecuador is more or less another spectator in the world game; watching the US and it's pop-collared ilk throw it's weight around the field. Ecuadorians who have a voice in the global marketplace are wearing a US jersey. If you come to Ecuador, find the people who can't afford one, and ask them about their lives here in a country of misty mountains and pebble banks of the wide Amazon.
Make no assumptions: I'm having fun. I might stay the extra two weeks if I found cheap/good hummus.

The Plan:
Come June 6th, we move to the coastal town of I-can't-remember. We'll shoot-out the Ecuadorian leg of the film and break. Some will stay, traveling around on their own dime. Others will go back home to the States. My plan is to exchange/refund my tickets on two airlines through 3 countries on August 1st into some trip that takes me back to the US on July 18th. Why? 3 reasons for you folks. Uno: I really feel like I've got a grand over-view, with highlights and texture, character and a taste for the place. Dos: My own dime is shrinking. I'd rather come back to town and make some money than spend more than I could earn in a two week period. Tres: I really put my life on hold for this trip and it's beginning to put a lot of pressure on me. Pressure I'd like to release by charting my next few quarters of occupational activity, whether it be in LA or Waterloo. As I say, nothing's final yet but that's the plan. The only thing I'm not 100% on is if I want to blow the money to buy a new pair of sneakers and a light jacket. My Adidas have jumped the shark.

I watched Motorcycle Diaries last night and really enjoyed it. Che Guevera is huge here, It's qued in my ensermountable reading list for Wikipedia. I'm looking forward to going to two Pre-Colombian South American anthropological and natural history museums on my five days off. My friend George also told me about some English pubs in downtown. George, if you're reading this, they've really made recent efforts to clean up the city and make it safer. Think the police presence of Sixth Street on Mardi Gras only armed with fully auto machine guns. Oh man, I promise I'm getting a picture with a Policia. There's a lot more exploring and adventuring to come but the hump has been crossed and Barton Springs seems warmer than ever.

Here are some pictures from Chad's lens.


My $120 meal in the Mexico City Airport. All $120 of it were left on a CopaAir jetliner.

kids

Day 10

Alejandro Ponce Garcia, director of Peco's Tex Mex, co-star.
He's got some stories to tell.

un mono

mas monos

A Capibara from the AmaZoonico wildlife refuge. I was fortunate to record it's cooing along with 1o other animals at the zoo. It sounded like a tribble.

AD & Sound Recordist


I'm for supporting local businesses.
15,000 feet above Quito.

Mariscol Sucre, the streets of Quito.


Goodnight.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Vidi This

So, Chad's camera is out of power or something lame like that, so Tuchman lened me his lens for these snap shots (ordered chronological-like) from the excursion thus far. These are just a mere sampling of what is to come. So enjoy.


On Set, in the kitchen of Resturante La Posada, Misahualli, Ecuador.

The town of Misahualli, pop. probably around 200 personas



A typical lunch served to you, had you been staying with the film crew at Hostel El Piasano.



The bridge over Rio Napo, connecting the rain forest to the town



Boating down the Amazon



Our leading man, doing his thing.



Piranha. One of the small ones.



If they had tortillas, I would have made a fish taco.



Banos, Ecudaor



Quads



5 PEOPLE MAX ON THE WOOD/ROPE BRIDGE




Tired, shaved, back in Quito. Goodnight.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Leaving Baños

I´m leaving Baños on a bus.
The best food here was at cafes that most resembled Spider-House and Ruta Maya in Austin. Very Kerby-esque. Didn´t drink too much. Rash went away from the funky soap from the fishing trip. Chad´s real mad that I´m not finishing this blog entry. Now we have to walk around the town in the rain to find Blue and Tuchman. Tonight, the pictures come. Get ready.
-Balke

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wow, the entry I just spent $1 USD of time typing vanishes into the cybervoid of the blogosphere. It was finely crafted and freatured illiteration and allegory. Damn.

In short, I'm in Banos with Chad, Blue and Tuchman until I return to the orphanage in Quito on Friday and resume recording sound for the film on Saturday.

Banos is amazing, alot of cool stuff, it's a chill, cold more European styled turist location, pictures will come soon, latest by Friday. I went down the Amazon before arriving and fished for piranha and bated gators from a gordita. My beard is now a mustache-goatee, per the cover of GQ featuring Welsh prince of acting, Christian Bale. The food is still tops, as is the hostal here.
Met some very friendly chicas from London. The pina coladas are amazing. The poverty is stiffling and the treatment of animals grotesque. There's still only one type of beer.

I go to find adventure.

Banos (with out the N-yeah)

4 of us are in Banos for 3 days off. This is the nicest place I've been so far in Ecuador, but I'm sure the interior of Quito proper will give it a run for it's money. Again, I'm having trouble with these windows 98 PCs uploading high-res pictures from USB-out cameras, but I can promise a deluge of pictures come Friday night when I return to the orphanage outside Quito. Banos is a very Euro-styled tourist locale. The streets are narrow and the buildings are skinny with tall glass windows and an inpeniaturable cloud looms over the town, only breaking it's white diffusion at night, when the yet active volcano glows neon orange in the night, washing the entire town in a warm luminace. I had a mild allergic reaction to the soap in the last hostal I was in, loacted in Lemoncocha (Qichua for Lemon Lagoon, where we went 5 hours by truck to fish for piranha and got too close to some really big gators {all of which I have pictures and video of, which may have to wait unitl I get back to Austin}).
I'm still looking for the world-renouned Vogel guitars made here. The hostal here is top-shelf material and I hope to buy a hat to keep my guliver warm because we're really high in the mountains. Pictures will come some day soon. There's a french resturante here that serves chocolate creepes. Any more description would just make the lack of pictures seem cruel. My beard is now a mustashe-goatee inspired by a GQ that Christian Bale, Welsh Prince of acting, was on the cover of. Already have I meet friendly chicas from Swiztrland and Lodon. There's still only one kind of beer. Pina Coladas probably couldn't be better anywhere else. There's also stiffling poverty gripping the interior of the country, the roads are mostly one lane mud paths.
The film is still going on, it's good for sound.
Laters.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Rain Monkey Amazon Juice

Sorry the posts have been few and far between, this will change once we get the upcoming week off on Sunday. I´m going to write some fully fleshed blog entries at that time, based on the jounrals and videos I´ve been making along with plenty of pictures and skecthes. This one picture took 5 minutes to upload, which cost me around .25 cents at the internet cafe in Tena.
The town of Misahualli is a square block lined with bars and tourist shops surrounded by a barrio. It rests on the ever rising and ebbing shores of the Rio Nappo, a tributary from the highlands to the milk chocolate Amazon. I´ve had the fortune to take several 1.5 hour long canoe rides on both over the past week, witness a tribal market exchange, a tribal dance reinactment with locally prepared teas and ¨beverages¨as well as visit a truley remarkable Amazon Zoo, or better descrtibed as a wildlife sanctuary. I´ve made both friends and enemies alike with monos. I´ve eaten things I only hoped I´d one day eat, like fruit from a tree in the rainforest. There´s only two brands of cerveza in Ecuador: Pilsner (Grolsch-esque) and Club (a straight knock-off of New Castle, which is quite tastey). There´s alos Blue Fanta, which unbenounced to me, exists in isolation in South America. More to come on the cuisine and dinning company of the Amazon.
The film is going very well. I´m very good at recording production sound. Again, the blog for the film is kept by the producers and is located here: www.safebymyside.com. We´re roughly 25% done with the footage to be shot in Ecuador, the rest will be shot in Seattle, Washington during the first few weeks of August. I may take part in this remainder, simply so I can soley own the sound recordist-mixer credit. Chad, Dave and I are going to go find some Piña Coladas and some gringas in the Peace Corp at the local teca. Come Sunday, we´ll go back to Quito for a bit of rest and clothes warshing then off to Baños. I really want to see an active volcano. I´m sure I´m missing quite a lot to abstract on before I finish this post but I´m worn from shooting in the rain all say and hope to enjoy the first night off in a while. I hope you are all doing well. -b