Reality Check

Diego Rivera in Cortezs' CastleTransitions are times of change.  Times of change intensify experiences and emotions.  My transition back to the United States has been no exception.

WhatI guess I have not yet shared about my experience in Mexico City.  I thought Bogota was enormous, but Mexico City (DF) is another story- it was once the largest city in the world!  It was an incredible week and it truly was the best way to transition back to the states.  Spending time with my friend Issac and celebrating his graduation from dental school helped cement our friendship.  While Laughsthere, I performed a show for a group of about 30 orphan girls from an orphanage that his family helps support.  I thought it was going to merely be me visiting the orphanage and doing a few tricks for the girls.  However, after learning that I was willing to do the show, the community of his family and friends quickly made it into something much bigger.  One person donated his event hall Old Times Sakefor the show, another person offered to do a show as he is a professional clown, another group offered to cook a large meal for everyone, and before we knew it this turned into a full-fledged celebration!  As I was leaving the event, I shared tears of joy and connectedness with a few of the community members who organized the event.  It was the first time they had done something like Zags Unitethis.  On my last night in Mexico, Isaac’s relatives and the community members who organized the event came to his house and surprised us with a special dinner.  They did a toast to what we had done for those wonderful girls.  This is a true example of community, dedication, and faith in action.  It was beautiful to be a part of it.  Additionally, I got to see one of my former babysitters, Jenny Collins, who is living in Mexico City!  On top of this, I re-connected with some very special friends from Gonzaga who were either studying or living in Cuernavaca, which is just outside of Mexico City.  It was so great to re-connect with fellow Zags, I am so grateful and honored to be a Gonzaga Alum.

Magic Time

A lot of my plans, hopes/expectations have changed since I have gotten home.  The biggest and most influential one of those changes is that I will no longer be going to India as soon as I thought.  After speaking with some advisors and medical schools I realized it would not be wise to be in India during the fall as it is prime-time interview season.  Medical schools operate on a rolling admissions basis and prolonging my interview would greatly minimize my chances for early acceptance.  So, I am going to be in the NW at least through the holidays.  Right now, I feel at peace with it.  While it is not what I had envisioned, I think it is truly for the better in the long run.  We are hoping that everything will work out for me to be in India for a few months this spring.  This will give me a chance to get my professional life squared away before leaving on another adventure which will in turn allow me to be more present when I go.

I just sent out my primary applications to 15 medical schools.  Please send them some positive energy when you can.  I am really curious and excited to see where I will end up studying medicine.

Due to upcoming expenses for medical school (application fees, travel for in-person interviews, and eventual enrollment) and because my previous investments have slowed, I have been forced to prioritize establishing a more regular income.  Although not ideal for my personality, my new job is ideal for my needs and situation.  I am now subcontracting as a home inspector for banks.  As long as I get my work in on time, I can make my own hours and receive a healthy income while working about three long days a week.  This allows me to be available for magic shows and outdoor summer fun.  For the time being, it is perfect.  Once I get more of a regular schedule going, I am planning on volunteering on a weekly basis performing at a hospital in Bellingham as well as taking violin lessons to eventually incorporate into my magic shows.

photo-2Speaking of magic, something exciting is brewing here.  I had two incredible individuals from Skagit Valley separately solicit me to sponsor three magic shows for migrant worker communities here in the valley.  I am thinking and hoping that this is the start of something bigger.  There is some energy around this- the fact that it happened separately with two different people tells me this.  Ironically, on Friday, a large population of the migrant worker community went on strike against wages and working conditions.  I am still not sure how this all will connect, but I am feeling curiously excited about it.  I am very grateful for our two sponsors: Anne Schreivogl, a local, well-known artist and Bobbie Day, a neighbor I used to pull weeds for.  I hope to continue what they have initiated.  It is an honor for me to be the medium between a community in need and those who want to contribute to such a community.

Magic magicWith this and other upcoming shows, things are gradually beginning to pick up some momentum.  I will be performing on the main stage at the Anacortes Arts Festival on Friday, August, 2nd at 11:30 AM.  I will be at the festival for the entire weekend doing workshops and street performing.  Additionally, I will be performing regularly at the Conway Muse.  My next performance there is Saturday, July 27th at 8pm.  It is such a wonderful place to perform, to eat, and to just hang out at.  Please keep tabs on my facebook page (and like it if you have not done so already) for upcoming performances: Ryan Bart- The Magic Man.

On top of everything else, I am working on a new and exciting start-up.  This is an idea I have been brainstorming about for years with my close Gonzaga friend, Warren Carter.  Over the last year, he began to put things in motion and he wants me on board.  While we were doing different things this last year, we were thinking about the same thing: energy.  I was thinking of it more in terms of spirituality, health, and connectedness.  He was thinking of it in this way as well as in terms of actual physical energy that we use on a daily basis such as fuel and other resources.  I don’t want to disclose too much right now, but I wanted to share my excitement.  We will call it: BOSS Systems (Biological Organic Sustainable Science Systems).  The basic idea is to begin a paradigm shift about how we as consumers (or prosumers) interact with our environment.  BOSS Systems will utilize what earth has provided and what already exists for sustainable, usable, and realistic sources of energy and products.

There is so much to say, so much to reflect on that it is actually a bit overwhelming (everything seems to be that way right now).  Since arriving back home, there have been so many small moments of joy and excitement as well as nostalgia and sadness.  Like I said, transitions tend to intensify everything and because of that, being back home has been one huge reality check.  It’s like starting over, once again.  I welcome the challenge.

Things I miss about Colombia:
*Johanna (we are still together and doing well)
*The Magic Project: Carlos and our magic students, performing at the hospitals
*Ridiculously fresh tropical fruit
*Studying with Santiago
*The sense of adventure and being in a foreign country
*Not having to think about the future too much
*Cheap meals out
Things I love about being home:
*Friends and family
*Having nature at my fingertips: kayaking, hiking, running, and everything in-between
*Having a car and going where I want, when I want, with everyone and everything I want
*Living on Samish Island- what an incredible place!!
*Hummus, varied cheeses, and lots of veggies
*Performing at the Conway Muse and other great venues

Muse Magic


Much more than Magic

As I sat reflecting during my final hours in Colombia, I wrote the following piece as it flowed out of me in a matter of minutes:

Colombia, much more than Magic


I love you even though I sometimes I want to hate you.
You are always in my face
Sometimes I want you there,
Sometimes I don’t.
But you are there.


Your people are beautiful,
Inside and out.
Sometimes they are rude,
Sometimes they cheat and mistreat me
Just because I am a Gringo
Sometimes they just do not leave me alone.
But I still love them,
Like I love you.


You, like them,
Are generous and genuine
Full of life at all times of day
Resilient in the midst of seemingly endless
Inconvenience, difficulty, and violence.
With a smile,
Trusting that no matter the chaos and pain,
All will be o.k.


You have taught me so much.
Trust the process.
Go with the flow.
Be patiently persistent.
Take a deep breath,
Even if the air is contaminated.


You never work the way I think I want
Or the way I expect,
But you always seem to work,
One way or another.


Maybe that’s why I love you.
By learning to trust your instabilities,
I also learned to trust my own.


By loving you,
I began to love myself,
Like never before.


By loving myself,
I began to practice loving everyone,
No matter how they treated me,
No matter where they came from,
No matter what they smelled or looked like,
No matter if I have ever even met them,
No matter what,
Like never before.


Maybe slightly cheesy, but nonetheless, infinitely true:
To freely and unconditionally love
Is to live.
Like never before.


Thank you Colombia

Some photos and reflections

 Magos Imparables

During my final day with the Magic Club at Bella Flor, they sung me an improvised rap song about what magic meant to them, they made me an incredible card (all on their own), and they began writing really meaningful messages on the windows that were fogged up from us playing for nearly two hours straight.  They now call themselves Magos Imparables (Unstoppable Magicians).  Tamara wrote on the window: “Magos sin Fronteras, mucho mas que magia” (Magicians Without Borders, much more than magic).  That was an important part of the inspiration for the piece I wrote.

Vega School

Through Dr. Santiago, I met my soul brother, Fabian.  His spirit animal is the Condor and mine is the Bald Eagle.  He has a sacred home that vigilantly protects the base of a beautiful mountain peak that lies at the end of one stretch of the Andes.  He invited me to his mountain.  I performed what was my favorite, most intimate, and final magic show in Colombia at the one room school house in the rural village near Fabian’s mountain.  The children and teacher completely understood what it was all about, they truly believed, and began to acknowledge the magic in their own lives.  A part of my soul will always be with those children and with Fabian on that mountain.

Passing the Wand

Passing the wand off to Carlos.  He is going to do wonderful things with Magicians Without Borders in Colombia.  Keep him in your thoughts as he is recovering from having surgery on a broken hand due to a moped accident that happened in the chaotic streets of Bogota.


I was trying to decide what to do with my bike, when a friend offered to do a trade.  He is Cesar Giraldo, a world-renowned leather craftsman (he has been featured in the NY Times) who has his workshop right across the street from my house.  He offered to trade a beautiful hand-made leather briefcase for my bike.  At first, I was hesitant as at this point in my life a $225 briefcase feels a bit extravagant.  But after thinking it over, I went for it.  I will use it every day in Medical School and it will instantly take me right back to Colombia.  The money would be gone in a matter of weeks.  This briefcase is likely the finest thing I own and it will only get better with time.

moped fun

I recently returned from spending a week with Johanna on San Andres, an amazing Caribbean Island.  It was just her, me, and a moped that we rented.

 the jump

Colombians tend to me much more easy-going and flexible than all of us from the U.S.  I was finding myself getting frustrated more easily than normal as minor inconveniences occurred (as they always do) during my last few weeks here.  Then, on my last day in San Andres when doing this 30 foot jump, I ruptured my ear drum (for the 4th time).  At first I resisted the pure fact of it and this caused me to suffer.  I thought about my upcoming trip to Mexico, all the flights I will be taking and how my ear was going to hurt, my summer will now lack swimming, etc…  Then I realized, I do not have control over anything!  My eardrum has been a somewhat harsh reminder to relax, accept, and go with the flow of what comes.  When I stopped resisting and began to accept, the pain lingered and will continue to, but the suffering I was causing myself immediately disappeared.


Saying the final good-bye to Johanna was extremely difficult.  I am going to miss her like mad.  We have been psychologically preparing ourselves for this moment since we began dating, so in one sense we are ready to move on to the next phase of our relationship.  We are going to do the best we can with the distance and we realize that it may or may not last.  We will trust the process.

Much more than Magic

This is it, Colombia.  Thank you.  Also, I want to thank each and every one of you for reading and for supporting me from afar.  Knowing that I have been accompanied by a loving, supportive, and engaged community back home has given me well-needed inner strength every step of the way.  Also, please keep in mind that I will be home and eager to perform some of my new material while helping you add a magical twist to your summer festivities.  You know where to find me.

It truly has been Much more than Magic.

Winding Down

 empty empty

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

It’s time.  Transition time.  Transitions are always an interesting opportunity to ponder, feel, and reflect.  I have a wonderful life here in Colombia and I am about to leave it.  I will definitely return, but it will never be the same.  Despite the daily inconveniences of living in an overpopulated city, I truly love my life here.  It is full of magic (about three shows a week), incredible friends and students (magic and Enlgish), the most unstructured time I have ever had in my life, a wonderful girlfriend, and travel.  I could not have asked for anything else.  At the same time, I also feel ready to move on to the next chapter in my life.  Transitions are usually a mixed bag of emotions- I am really looking forward to what lies ahead and at the same time, I feel a sense of loss to leave what I have created here.

mad juggling

Things are truly winding down.  I leave Colombia on June 5th.  Johanna and I will be taking a vacation from the 24th until June 1st, so next week is my last full week here in the city…yikes!

magic talkThursday was my final day at the university.  My time there was a positive experience despite all of the inconveniences that go with being the first native language teacher at a public Colombian University.  I learned to be patient and I also learned that teaching English is not a passion of mine although I value the importance of English programs in developing countries.  My final formal duty at the university was to give a 30 minute magic show/lecture to 200 first semester students.  Not a bad way to go out.

Last Thursday, I said my good-byes to our Findesin magic students.  These girls are magic schoolhaving some difficulties with practicing and focus.  It has been frustrating, but not different from how things started with the Bella Flor Club 10 months ago.  Last Thursday, we held our first monthly class with these girls at Richard Sarmiento’s world-renowned magic school: Escuela de Artes Magicas.  We are hopeful that this will help with some well-needed enthusiasm and energy in the club.

This Tuesday will be my last day with my students at Bella Flor.  This will be a tough goodbye- the Magic Club is in such a wonderful state.  I am so proud of the childrens’ progress and I will miss them very much.  Oscar, the full-time computer teacher at Bella Flor told me that he has spoken with each of the children in the Magic Club and it was a general consensus among them that “the Magic Club was a turning point in their lives.”  He also told me that directors and teachers of the foundation (consists of 160 children) have commented that “The Magic Club was the highlight of the last year in our Foundation.”  Hearing Oscar’s comments, made me reflect on how special this has been for not only me, but for these kids, and for the foundation as a whole.  His comments almost brought tears to my eyes.

hospital babyTwo weeks ago, we brought our Bella Flor magic students to Vista Hermosa Hospital for the first time.  This was my dream from day one.  I am so happy that it became a reality.  The Bella Flor students are going to continue to visit the hospital each week.  We will rotate and have two or three students go each week with one teacher (Carlos or Jorge), while the rest of the students stay at the foundation to continue studying with the other teacher.  The hospital is only 15 minutes from the foundation and the bus to get there and back is actually free.  My long-term goal with this is that in one or two years, when the kids mature enough, they will be responsible for managing the hospital magic program.  Our students were seeping with pride and empowerment when they walked out of the hospital after performing there for the first time.  I feel that they are beginning to truly understand the power of sharing magic with others.

first day in the hospital

I have begun the long process of applying to medical school.  I am happy with my decision to take this two year gap between undergrad and medical school.  Having the time to let freedom take me on adventure has been more rewarding than I could have ever dreamed.  The best part: I still have India and who knows what after that before med school starts!  With that said, it has not been all rainbows and butterflies.  My first few months with the Bella Flor Club were overwhelming- I often questioned what I was doing.  I stuck with it and the children have truly began to flourish.  I have learned to trust the process.  Through persistence and patience, the most difficult experiences can turn into the most rewarding ones.

Oscar from Bella Flor also told me that, “These children you have been teaching truly believe in magic- they seem to be spreading their beliefs to the rest of the kids in the foundation.”


I will be home on June 13th after a week in Mexico City visiting my roommate from the first half of the year, Isaac.  I will most likely be leaving for India in mid-August.  During my time back home, I plan to continue performing like I have here in Colombia.  If you or someone you know is planning an event, consider spicing it up with magic!  10% of what you pay will go directly back to Magicians Without Borders.  I also plan to host a few shows/talks while home to share more about my experience and fund-raise for my next stint in India.  Thank you for your support- without it none of this would be possible.

See you soon! I am so looking forward to summer in the beautiful Northwest.  It doesn’t get any better.



Also, for those of you who speak a little Spanish, here is the link (click on image) to my 30-minute interview on the national radio that aired about three weeks ago.  This was aired on Dr. Santiago Rojas’ radio program called “Sana-mente” (he is the incredible doctor I have been studying with).  They introduced me as a world-renowned magician (a bit of a stretch- being a Gringo here can go a LONG way).



The world that we observe depends on how we see it. If I am a skateboarder, I will see a large set of stairs as a challenge. If I am an author, the words I read and write signify much more than just a means of sharing an idea. Being a magician, I look at a deck of cards and see more than just a game; I see art waiting to happen. Bogotá is covered with graffiti, yet because visual art is not the lens I usually look through, I hadn’t fully recognized the significance of it until last weekend. I went on a walking graffiti tour and learned that Bogotá is actually a major destination for street art. In the city, graffiti is not against the law. There are a lot of tags that litter the city and serve no purpose other than name recognition. But, there are also a lot of really talented artists that paint provoking work laden with social and political statements all over Bogotá. After going on the tour, I now admire the street art put up by some of Latin America’s most respected artists during the many hours I spend each week going to the far corners of this enormous city. If I did not go on that tour, I would never have appreciated it as I do now. Perspective- it’s all about the lens you look through. Our world is so complex, with so much visual and auditory input, that it is an adaptable advantage to filter out the majority of it. However, with that comes a great risk- we can unconsciously miss some of the most simple, yet beautiful joys that life has to offer.

Carrying the Weight Art

Camera Gun






Our MagosLast Tuesday was a very special day. We performed two shows in Ciudad Bolivar with our magic students, Gustavo Lorgia, and another famous Colombian magician, Juan Alvarez. It was a chaotic day, but definitely a huge success. Gustavo nor Juan had ever been to Ciudad Bolivar before and it was an honor to accompany them through that experience as their eyes bugged out of their socketsOur Magos 2 trying to comprehend that the severe poverty they witnessed was within the confines  their very own city. The first show we did was for a large school where there were more than 300 children in the audience. Two weeks before this, Carlos and I hosted auditions for our magic students to decide who would get the privilege to perform in that show. Edwin and Tatiana, stood out with flying colors and delivered incredibly well in the big show. The Our Magos 3second show was in the neighborhood of Foundation Bella Flor, and the rest of our students got to perform there with Gustavo and Juan. It was exciting for everyone to have famous magicians performing in this part of the city- for free. We are so excited about how far these children have come, both personally and in terms of magic after studying with us for just eight months. A special day indeed.

The Magic Crew

When I got home on Tuesday evening (completely exhausted), Marco, my host dad, told me he had something important to show me. That morning, about a half hour after I had left the house, a large bang startled him while he was in the kitchen. He didn’t think much of it as the apartment next door is undergoing a remodel. Later that afternoon, he noticed the curtain over the large windows in the living room had been detached from the rail. At first he thought my friends and I had too many beers on the balcony the night before and that we were the culprits. But, after further inspection, his assumptions were far from correct. A bullet, that’s right a heavy duty bronze-plated stray bullet had entered our 5th Curtain Rail, Bullet, and Bronze Capfloor apartment. It went through the aluminum window frame and lodged itself in the curtain knocking it off the rail. WHAT!!!????!! The bullet entered at an even angle which means it had to of come from one of two buildings that are at an equal or higher height to our apartment. These Bullet Entrybuildings are so far away, that even a 0.1 degree difference in the angle of the gun would have put that bullet right through the window, into our living room, and possibly into any one of us if we were there. This left us both frightened and sad. Frightened, for obvious reasons, we spend a lot of time out on the balcony which is right next to that window. Sad, because carelessly blasting bullets in highly populated areas of a city shows a complete lack of respect and care for human life. The worst part is there is nothing we can do about it. If we called the police, they would come, take a look, and say they were sorry, but offer no further help as no one got hurt. Things like this make me remember that yes, I am in Colombia.

Between this and hearing about the devastating events of the Boston Marathon, I was a 1 million deep for peacelittle on edge on Wednesday. I was walking out the doors of my building to go teach my class, and I heard a loud explosion from what seemed to be rather close. Completely startled, I looked in the direction of the noise, to see two figures dressed in all black (including masks) half a block away in the intersection menacingly staring down traffic and passersby. I guess this is not all that uncommon in Colombia either. I later learned that they were university students protesting something or other and they were setting off papa bombas (homemade bombs) that are more about noise than destruction. Throughout my class and for the next 4 hours or so, we had to listen to a continuous eruption of these papa bombas (about 10 every minute). Imagine trying to learn with a constant flow of explosions going off. I don’t know how they do it- Colombians are some of the most resilient people I have ever met. Today marks 9 months since I landed in Colombia, and I still frequently face interesting surprises such as this. Talk about perspective- it definitely keeps me on my toes. Honestly, I feel like there is a strangely scary energy flowing in the world right now. Between all the drama in Boston, Texas, North Korea, and Venezuela, I just sense something that makes me feel nervous and vulnerable about the future of our world.

On a lighter note, things are continuing to evolve in a very exciting and rapid way with the Magic Project. Last Friday was our first day performing in a new hospital, Fundación Santa Fé. It is the most medically respected hospital in the city, if not the country. I met the president of the hospital at a party through the U.S. Embassy about a month ago and she called me eager to get something going with Magicians Without Borders. For the remainder of my time here, I will be going there on a weekly basis to perform for patients residing in the oncology and pediatric wards. Although I prefer to work with less privileged populations, I am excited to spend time in such an advanced hospital. For the past few months, I have been dreaming of putting together an afternoon workshop where we can teach interested doctors and nurses some very simple and basic magic tricks that they can do with their patients. I pitched the idea to this hospital and they are very interested- sure would be a great way to significantly extend the positive effect that magic can bring in hospital settings.

Best Breakfast EverThis coming Saturday, the 27th, Johanna and I will be celebrating 6 months together! That sure went fast. Our relationship has definitely been a roller coaster with lots of ups and downs. Also, her work has continued to be a chaotic mess. We were looking forward to spending a month in the same city as she was being sent to Bogs to do health evaluations of newly enlisted soldiers. She arrived Tuesday morning. On Wednesday afternoon when we were having lunch, she got a phone call from the powers that be saying that they had cancelled the program until June or July and that she had to report back to her base immediately. We are both very bummed out about this. I am leaving in 6 weeks and we were both really looking forward to having a month in the same city. All this makes me wonder how the Colombian Army could possibly defend the country if they can’t even effectively organize something as relatively simple as this. It is also not appropriate to play with the lives of others- she was not the only one affected, there were about 10 health care professionals that were affected in the same way. This was the tipping point and she has officially resigned from the position, although she has to stay another month as the contract requires her to do so.

Santiago Rojas is a very famous and well-respected Alternative Medicine doctor who practices here in Bogotá. He has a nightly show on Caracol Radio, which is the most listened to radio station in the country. It also happens to be that he is a magician on top of being a doctor, professor, author, researcher, radio show host, and father. With a connection through my host mom, Pati, I have been trying to arrange a day where I could go and shadow him as I eventually want to practice Alternative Medicine. After more than 2 months of emailing back and forth with my contact, she was finally able to arrange a day for me to shadow Santiago (he does not like being called Dr. Rojas). Last Thursday, I was invited to spend the morning with him at his practice until 1pm. I was blown away by his clinic- it boasted 6 floors, that had state-of-the-art facilities for magnetic therapy, light therapy, visual therapy, music therapy, to name just a few. I have never seen a practice as big as this dedicated almost completely to Alternative Medicine.

Santiago is one of those larger than life characters who loves and respects everyone as much as they do him. He is incredibly brilliant, and genuine. He greets each patient with a hug and a kiss on the cheek or forehead. I have never seen a doctor, let alone an M.D. practice the way he does. The majority of the time he spends with patients is doing a form of energy therapy that he has developed. It may sound strange to some, and it was definitely unique to observe, but he has had consistent success with healing patients with some of life’s most threatening illnesses. I truly believe that energy is critical to our health and well-being, yet it is not tangible by science and is therefore neglected by standard Western Medicine. Thus, seeing Santiago practice was a major inspiration and source of hope for me.

On Thursday mornings, he hosts a study group with his co-workers where he lectures onLive in the Mystery different topics. This Thursday he spoke on magic for about five minutes and then without warning, put me on the spot to do an impromptu show. I had no forewarning, had nothing planned, but luckily being a magician; I had come prepared with a few things. I performed about 30 minutes of magic while talking about my philosophy on it. People received this with great enthusiasm which was comforting as I had completely winged it (completely in Spanish). After the study group, Santiago asked me if I was planning on staying with him for the whole day. I told him that I thought I was only invited until 1pm, but that I would enjoy staying longer if I could. He said he was excited to have me around and that I was more than welcome to stay. He continued to invite me to accompany him to the radio station for his show that evening. Before we went to the radio, he hosted another group which I later learned was a social activist group he heads with other socially motivated professionals. During this time, we spoke for about an hour and half about the difference between desires and dreams- the kind of conversation topic I love. Of course, he had me do another on-the-spot magic show. Again, I was touched by how well everyone had received the magic and what I shared. Then we were off to the radio station. Upon leaving the station, the radio program host invited me to return this Thursday, she said she wanted to interview me about my life and work with Magicians Without Borders. Little did I know what I was getting into when I left my house that morning. Santiago has invited me to attend his university classes for the remainder of my time here. My first class is this Tuesday (tomorrow) evening. I am also returning to shadow with him this Thursday morning. I am so honored and excited by his openness to share his time, wisdom, and knowledge with me.

As usual, it has been a crazy few weeks. So much has happened. Last week, I got to spend one full day performing with the leading magician in Colombia, Gustavo Lorgia while I spent another full day learning with the leading doctor in Colombia, Santiago Rojas. Magic and medicine are what I have decided to dedicate my life to and it has been incredible to spend time with the leaders of each of these fields.

Los Magos

Life is full of surprises. I believe that such surprises are not purely coincidental. It is important to be open, unafraid, and willing to pursue possible opportunities. The experiences and perspectives I gain from such opportunities literally open my eyes just as the graffiti tour opened my eyes to the incredible street art of Bogs.

silk from mouth

After sending a text to Santiago thanking him for a great day and expressing admiration for his unique and caring way of healing, he responded to me with:
“No, thank you! We are all drops of water in the ocean. If we are connected by our conscience, we will form an ocean that brews life.”

Crisp ArtRodez Art

All at Once

  Valle de Cocora

All at once.  A second magic club.  A magic show with Gustavo Lorgia.  Featured on national TV two times in one week.  Taking 50 people to Cirque du Soleil for the first time in their lives.  A small vacation to the Eje Cafetero.  Dreaming up what my life will bring next year.  All at what feels like, at once.

Second Magic Club

The New ClubThanks to the hard work and persistence of Carlos, we have started up a second magic club! For three weeks now, we have been teaching the art of magic to a group of nine girls who live together at an orphanage called Findesin.  They are a group of what appears to be very promising, young female magicians.  Last week, we were practicing a new routine learning a difficult technique and we had some behavioral interruptions when they were practicing one by one in front of the group.  We explained that it is important to respect the performer as they would want to be respected because when they are up there, it can be very nerve-wracking.  At the end of the two hour class, one girl, Diana, stood up and apologized to us on behalf of all of the girls for the disruption.  The rest nodded in agreement and promised it would not happen again.  These girls, although orphans, are very fortunate; they have been taught how to participate in a collaborative community and they appear to be building a supportive family for one another.  They are a dream to work with.  We are hopeful to see big things from them in the coming months.

African American History Month Receptoin at the U.S. Ambassador’s House

African American History Month at the AmbassadorsAbout a month ago, us Fulbrighters in Bogotá were invited to a reception at the Ambassador’s house celebrating the month of African American History.  I have repeatedly heard that his house is touted as the nicest house in Bogotá- I would not doubt it either.  It is very White House- esque.  The invitation said that the event would last from 7pm to 9pm.  Leave it to us Fulbrighters to stick around until 11:30 pm drinking fine whiskey and wine while dancing with the Ambassador (Michael McKinley) and his wife.

U.S. Embassy Funding

Early this month, we received the good news that the U.S. Embassy Cultural Affairs Department in Colombia is awarding Magicians Without Borders with a $1,000 grant to carry out our weekend-long Magic and Theatre camp with our Bella Flor Magic Club.  We wrote up a grant proposal that was also looking for support to sustain our 2nd magic club, but unfortunately the State Department is in dire economic times at the moment.  We are honored that they saw enough value in our work to give us the $1,000 at this time.  We are truly grateful.

Tom’s Visit:

Magic in all

Suitcases of props






Weekend- Long Intensive Magic and Theatre Camp

Our blooming magician TatiannaCarlos and I had been working very hard for well over a month to plan a Magic and Theatre Camp for a weekend during Tom’s visit this March (we were very disappointed that Janet, aka La Fleur could not make it this time).  We held the camp on the weekend of March 16th and 17th, just two weekends ago.  The camp was a mixture of playing theatre games, Stretching it outjuggling, learning new magic, working on storytelling, and working on one trick to perfect and present in a show at the close of camp.  The camp went really well, there was a lot of laughter, play, and learning that took place.  It was touching to see the kids practicing juggling and magic during their snack breaks and lunch time.  Some of them were even begging to go outside and do magic for passersby.  8 months ago, that would have never even been an idea within their realm of reality.  Now they are eager to give the gift of magic back.

The Big Show: Florece la Magia de Ciudad Bolivar (The Budding Magic of Ciudad Bolivar)

As typical in Colombia, an audience finally began to gather about thirty minutesShow_Magia_v01 after the show was about to start.  The goal of this show was to showcase what the kids have been learning and to help us put emphasis on the art of performing during the weekend camp.  We ended up gathering a crowd of about 65-75 people.  It was a little less than I was personally hoping for, as we publicized it quite heavily. Despite this, it turned into an unforgettable and incredibly meaningful show.  One of my favorite magic students, Edwin, has always suffered from serious nerves and shyness when performing magic.  He was tensing up big time just before the show.  Tom and Jorge (A talented magician from Ciudad Bolivar who has become a regular teacher and hospital performer) worked with him independently not an hour before the show.  Jorge taught Edwin how to make the crow laugh.  When it was Edwin’s turn to do a multiplying sponge rabbit Edwin working his  Magicroutine, he captivated the audience with every word.  He made them laugh by grabbing a volunteer’s hand, shaking it, and jokingly scolding her to keep it still.  He made magic.  Rosabla Martinez, Bella Flor’s head coordinator who works directly with the children every day was overjoyed with surprise at the profound changes that have evidently been taking place in our young magician.

Shaking the NervesAmidst our supportive audience was our good friend and Colombia’s premier magician, Gustavo Lorgia.  He closed our show doing three very impressive magic tricks.  Then, he called each child individually on stage and gave them a box of special cookies He continued with an invitation for our young budding magicians to perform with him in an upcoming show in Ciudad Bolivar, a part of town where Gustavo has never before performed.  That show will be coming up in about three weeks and we are in the process of arranging the details.  To have Gustavo be a part of our show meant the world to these children who have grown up watching him on television.  Amongst all present, there was an energy of excitement and honor to be sharing an experience as unique and special as this with these children.

Florece la  Magia de Ciudad Bolivar

After the show, Rosalba from Bella Flor stated,  “Since these children have been studying magic they attend the program more regularly, coming two or three times a week to practice their magic. They are more responsible and punctual. They are becoming leaders with the other children.” Rosalba ends by saying, “If we had it our way, all 160 Bella Flor children would be in the Magicians Without Borders Magic Club.”

Ready for the big show

Cirque du Soleil

Cirque Du SoleilCarlos is the man.  Through his foundation, Connecting Smiles, he applied to Cirque du Soleil (currently in Bogotá), for a donation of tickets to take children to one of the shows.  He had applied to this once before, about three years ago, and never got a response.  This year, however, he did get a response, Connecting Smiles was gifted 30 tickets!  As if this was not enough, Cirque du Soleil called him a week after he was first notified, and announced that they were able to find 20 more tickets to donate, totaling a gift of 50 tickets!  On March 23, 2013, we were able to bring 41 children and 9 foundation chaperones to see the absolute perfection of one of the best shows on earth, Cirque du Soleil.  For all of these 50 people, it was their first time to see any kind of high end show as this.  It might in fact be the only time, but it was definitely unforgettable for all.

T.V. Publicity

 On Tom’s first day on the ground in Colombia, we were accompanied by T.V. camera’s from one of Colombia’s two biggest television networks, RCN.  RCN hosts Colombia’s most watched morning show, Muy Buenos Días.  They contacted Carlos soon after a huge article was released about him and his foundation, Connecting Smiles, on Colombia’s most widely read online newspaper, El Tiempo (click link for article).  As they learned more about Carlos, his foundation, and his work with Magicians Without Borders (MWB), they also asked to do a story on MWB.  Two days later, they aired the story on Carlos and Connecting Smiles.  The following day, to our surprise, they aired the story on MWB- I am still trying to get my hands on it as I have only been told about it.  Then, the following Monday, they invited us for a live in-studio interview for that Wednesday’s show, the same day as Cirque du Soleil, and the day before Tom was returning to the States.  They asked for 15 minutes on air with us, and that’s about what it turned out to be.  We had a great time laughing, sharing about MWB, and doing some magic on air.  Before the interview, I was chatting a bit with a woman whom I later learned is one of Colombia’s most famous singers, Marbel.  She had her assistant take my phone number as she wanted me to help her with English… we will see about that one.

Here is the interview…Enjoy!


Only minutes after our piece aired, Carlos’ smartphone was blowing up with messages, emails, tweets, and all of the sort.  We have ended up getting an enormous response from the piece.  It feels as if a lot of good as materializing.

Behind the scenes magic


Behind the scenes magic with the hostess’ of Muy Buenos Días



You have to watch this clip…Carlos’s graceful studio exit that interrupted the show host’s live Chocolate advertisement on national television!


All of this happened during Tom’s visit, which was only over the span of 10 days!


Semana Santa Getwaway

Valle de Cocora2

 I just returned from a 5-day vacation with Johanna to the Coffee region of Colombia, Eje Cafetero.  Among other things, our favorites were hiking through Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley, Colombia’s famous high mountain palm forest), being adopted parents for our driver’s 6-year-old son who joined the two of us at the butterfly gardens for two hours, and soaking in some hot springs under a full moon at the foot of an incredible waterfall.  It was a well needed play and rest break for the both of us.  It was her first time away from work since she started nearly two months ago.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time together.

I was not kidding about the surrogate son1

Butterflies are Amazing









My Next Steps

Over these past few months, my thoughts have often been consumed by brainstorming creative ways to spend my coming year.  After some serious discernment during my senior year at Gonzaga, I decided to take two full years after graduation and before resuming my studies yet again.

During Tom’s visit we further explored the possibility of me dedicating my coming year to Magicians Without Borders.  We both came to a consensus that this would be a positive option for both myself and MWB.  So, that is what I am planning on doing next year and I am completely excited about it!

Sharing the love at the hospital

Here is what we have in mind so far:

I will probably be leaving Colombia around early June.  I will spend the summer in the States preparing my medical school applications.  Then, I will likely return to Colombia to check in on everything in late August or early September.  Immediately after this, I will accompany Tom and Janet to India in early or mid-September.  The twist to this is that I will not be returning with them until after their visit three months later in December.  We are planning on having me spend about 3 months in India working with the two magic clubs that are there.  Each club consists of about ten adolescent girls who are children of sex-workers in Mumbai.  Tom feels it would be valuable to have someone on the ground there for more than just two weeks.  I have always wanted to visit India.  Now I have a reason to not only go, but to do something meaningful with my time there.  Then, in early January, I am hoping to help facilitate a magic camp with a large group of children in El Salvador.  It sure would be wonderful to return there after 3 years since my study abroad there.

As a part of this process, we are putting together a proposal for an award called the Fulbright New Leaders Group Award that goes toward supporting a current Fulbright project. Please keep your fingers crossed for us! This would allow us to take our work here in Colombia to a whole new level.  Additionally, we are planning another fundraising push to support my upcoming work in India.  Fortunately for us, India is not as expensive as Colombia.

High Mountain Palms

At this point, there is so much happening all at once.  It is exciting and empowering.  With each of Tom’s two visits over the last four months, it has felt as if there were strong forces working with us.  He has a kind of magical energy about him.  It was great to have him here (we missed Janet though) and once again, Bogotá received him with wide open arms. I feel like I continually say this, but I am truly excited to see what comes next.  There is magic in the air.

I Love Magic

The Fraternity of Colombian MagiciansI am not gunna lie… watching grown, professional men bicker over the bidding price of rubber chickens, confetti, and miniature cards is a sight I will never ever forget.  This would only happen amongst magicians.  The magic community of Bogotá has surprised me with both its connectedness and its support with our work here.  About two weeks ago, all of us Bogotá magicians gathered in the beautiful home of Gustavo Lorgia, where he auctioned off books, props, and gags all related to our beloved art- magic.  It has been a dream to carry out our work here in Bogotá with the support of such an incredible community of magicians.

To be honest, the transition of getting back to “normal” life after all of the wonderful adventures has been quite a challenge.  Not necessarily for the work, but for the chain of events that has accompanied the transition.  First, let me re-cap you on how things are going with our work here.

The magic at the hospital has continued to grow and evolve.  Seven months ago, I showedJuggling Master Joe up at the front doors of Hospital Vista Hermosa and told them I wanted to do magic for their patients.  They were confused and tried to understand what I meant until they eventually let me come and work my magic.  For the first month, I went completely by myself.  Then, Juggling Master Joe, began to accompany me each week.  Not a month after this, I met Carlos Lopez (from Connecting Smiles), who now joins us every week.  Carlos is well connected with the magic community, and each week he brings another magician.  What started as a solo magic gig has turned into a weekly quartet of four performers that never fail to give bored patients in the waiting rooms a good laugh and sense of awe.  That is magic in itself.

I was quite nervous to see how the kids would fare after nearly two months of vacation (thePracticing Away foundation where the club is hosted was closed down during the holidays).  To my delightful surprise, the kids came back with more talent and passion than ever.  And because of this, we are teaching them more magic than ever and they are really taking to it.  Two weeks ago, I told them that it was my dream that they accompany me to perform in the hospital.  I am optimistically hoping that they are about a month out from being ready to do this.  I remind them of this dream every week.  The idea is that eventually, these kids will be the ones who organize and run the weekly performances at the hospital in their very own community.

Carlos and the young MagiciansOn top of this, we are in the process of starting a second magic club with 10 children who live in an orphanage, thanks to the help of Carlos.  We are so grateful to have him on board- his passion and expertise is what will assure that this project continues to thrive and grow after I leave here.  Leaving this sustainable was one of our main goals when we touched ground here and there is no one on this planet that will do it better than Carlos.

It seems as if I threw the clock off the mountain as time is literally flying by.  We are already preparing for Tom Verner’s second visit to Colombia.  He will actually be here in exactly 20 days!  During his time here, we are planning some shows, hospital visits, and an intensive weekend magic camp for the kids in the magic club.  This has proven to be quite successful in El Salvador and India.  Carlos and myself, along with the rest of the magic community in Colombia are getting very excited for Tom’s arrival.

These last three weeks have been pretty intense.  Johanna had her official graduation The Grad and Her Familyceremony- congratulations to her!  That also meant that her parents were in town- which in turn meant that there was inevitably more parent drama.  Things eventually calmed down, but it was really tough as those were her last days in Bogotá and we spent a lot of time and energy trying to navigate through the tension with her parents.  Two weeks ago, Johanna moved about three hours north of the city, where she will fulfill her rural service year.  In Colombia, it is an obligation for all health care professionals to complete this upon graduation- it is great because it is great practical experience for the new graduates and serves a very big need in rural communities that lack health care services.  Selfishly, however, I HATE it.  It has been a harder transition than I anticipated… I really miss her.  She is working inside the base of a battalion of the Colombian Army.  Funds were cut this year and she is filling the shoes of two doctors- she Celebrating with the Gradherself is serving a population of     10, 000 people (soldiers, families, and elderly).  They are making her be on call 24/7 which is horrendous and inhumane, not to mention illegal.  But after all, we are in Colombia, and it is the Army.  We are looking to see what can be done about changing this as it is very tough for our relationship- especially seeing as my days are getting numbered here.  Fortunately, I will get to see her tomorrow- I’m going to pay her a little visit even though she may have a bit of work to do.

In the midst of this major change, I have been experiencing numerous inconveniences that would not occur in the United States, and I am beginning to feel ready to go back home.  Traffic is a nightmare.  People are always late (sometimes more than an hour).  My university doesn’t have enough classrooms for my classes.  Sometimes I show up at 8am to give a class and no students come at all.  The fumes from the traffic are intoxicating.  Personal space does not exist here.  Things like this have made me appreciate the daily comforts of the United States at a whole new level.  Don’t get me wrong- I love it here and I always will- I am just feeling that my time is coming to return home for a bit.

On top of all this- last Friday I went to take money out of the ATM, to find that I had the equivalent of US$3 remaining in my account.  When I checked it three days prior, I had the equivalent of US$750.  I think someone rigged the last ATM I used to make a duplicate of my debit card.  Then, someone went on a shopping spree with my money and without my permission.  It would have been easy to get mad, but really it just made me sad.  Why do we do things like this to each other?  I just don’t like how damn greedy and inconsiderate we humans can be.  In the United States, the bank would conduct an investigation and return the money within a week or so- I had something similar happen when I was living in Central America.  Here, the bank said it will take 1-2 months, and that is IF I get it back.  I am optimistic I will, but you never know here.  Very frustrating.  I just remind myself that: It is what it is.  There was nothing I could have done to prevent it and there is nothing more I can do from here.  It is out of my control.

View from my new ApartmentIn the midst of chaos and stress, I always turn to nature.  Unfortunately, there isn’t too much of that accessible here.  Thus, I have been turning to magic.  It has been my saving grace.  My lifestyle is much slower than it has been with living in more of a family situation and with having Johanna gone.  In a sense, it is a blessing as I am devoting most of my free time to studying magic- something I have been wanting to do for over 5 years.

It is hard to believe, but I have just about 3 months left.  What happened?!?!  I cannot believe it is already time to think about transitioning out of Colombia.  I have started to become preoccupied about what will come next as I am taking one more year before Medical School.  Thankfully, this week some exciting plans have begun to brew.  I am not yet ready to spill the beans, so stay tuned.  Thanks for reading!

Photo Blog Part 2

Wild adventures take 2.  This time, however, I was not flying solo, I was flying with my adventurous parents.  Enjoy

This first set of 7 pictures was taken during our time in Bogotá together.

La Candelaria: Bogotá´s Colonial neighboord…celebrating Johanna´s Birthday!

Admiring Bogotá´s famous street art

The Birthday girl herself

My beautiful ladies 😉

My Mom giving some of my students the business at my university

Getting my rock on, on my birthday

Colombia´s famous Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá

The following 13 photos were all taken in the Amazons- in Colombia, Peru, and Brazil

Sunset on the Amazon River

El mochilero boat where I spent a night in a hammock

The family- with AnnaBell, my German substitute sister for the week

My buddies in the community 7 de Agosto- an Amazon fishing village.  They did not have much in material, but they were far from poor.  They live a rich life off the land by fishing and through agriculture and they have a deep sense of joy and playfulness that is infectious to all.

Masked buddies!

I performed an impromptu magic show for the community with a deck of cards- I wish I would have went more prepared.

Despite only having a card deck, they still enjoyed the magic!

Here fishy fishy!  This was a hidden lake we camped alongside sleeping in hammocks.

Piranha.  Yup we caught a few of them on our own…and ate a bunch more!

La isla de los micos- monkey island.

There were more than just a couple!

My old man wasn´t too sure about them monkeys…

The Amazons…the land of adventure and biological diversity…and mosquitoes!

The following 7 photos were taken on the Caribbean coast of Colombia

View from our Cabaña in Parque Tayrona…I liked it so much the first time that I wouldn’t let my parents come to Colombia without visiting this paradise.

Look at em…how precious

Our view as we ate our freshly caught red snapper dinner in Taganga

Classic Cartagena scene

100% Colombiana

Diving into Volcán Totumo- a mud volcano that goes 2,300 meters into the Earth´s core. It was so viscous, you had to literally make an effort to prevent your legs from flying up out of the mud.

The Barts.  We are known to get dirty at times.  Viewer discretion is advised.


It was great getting to spend some family time after being here for 6 months, and I gotta say, I was impressed with the adventurousness of my parents!  We had some serious fun.

After all this traveling, I´m not gunna lie, I´ve gone a bit bananas and I am ready to do something productive


Let the magic begin like never before!





Photo Blog Part 1

They say a picture says a thousand words…I hope you agree because otherwise I would still be writing and you would still be reading.

Machu Picchu, Peru: A tribute to my Gonzaga Outdoors Family.

Machu Picchu, Peru: The Machu Crew that I traveled with for 4 days as we made our way the powerful Incan ruins of Machu Picchu.

Santa Teresa, Peru: Zippity zip on South America’s highest and largest zip line.

Isla del Sol, Bolivia: The incredibly spiritual island on Lake Titicaca, which is the worlds highest navigable lake (notice the heart that stands out on the snow-covered mountain).

The following 8 photos were all taken in the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.  This place was unlike anywhere I have ever been and I often felt as if I were on another planet.

The Salar Crew

Rubber ducky, you’re the one…rubber ducky, let’s have some fun 😉

Life is a puzzle- enjoy the  adventure

Wild green plant growth

Bolivian Flamingos

Laguna Colorado- Look at those colors!

Let’s get some sand on them tires

Tree Rock created by sand erosion

The following 4 photos are all from Potosi, Bolivia.  It is the highest city in the world and was previously the richest in the world due it’s 2,400 mines of silver, platinum, zinc, and many other metals.  Unfortunately that wealth has fallen to shambles.  It was quite an experience to be there and visit the mines on Christmas eve day- eye opening and quite heavy.

A view from the mines of the highest city in the world.

Miners literally grinding away on Christmas Eve Day.

El Tio (Uncle): He is the miner’s ode to Pachamama and an expression of the gratitude that mother nature provides for their livelihood.  Notice the lit cigarette in his mouth- when miners visit him, this is their ritual (seems slightly counter-intuitive seeing as it is a worship of nature).

The Miner’s Market: Coca leaves (used for energy but can be used to make cocaine), dynamite (for US$2), pure alcohol, cigarettes, and soda.  It is expected that visitors buy these things for the miners.

So we just had to buy the dynamite AND blow it up in the mine!

Sucre, Bolivia: An overwhelmingly incredible (and cheap) Christmas Eve dinner with some wonderful friends I met.

Sucre, Bolivia: Bolivia’s stunning city made up of all white buildings.  Had a white Christmas without snow!

La Paz, Bolivia: La Paz is the world’s highest capital city.  It also hosts the most dangerous road in the world and I biked down it.

Death Road, Bolivia: On bicycle, we descended 3,450 vertical meters (just over 10,000 vertical feet) over 64km on the world’s deadliest road (I am the second one from the left).

Arequipa, Peru: Sunset in their stunning square.

Arequipa, Peru: Met a new friend 😀

The following 4 photos are from Ica, Peru on New Year’s.  I got to see my great Gonzaga friend, Taylor, who is beginning her time as a Peace Corp volunteer working as an engineer for water treatment.

An oasis in the middle of the sand dunes

Dune-buggying with Taylor

If I can’t snowboard this winter, I’ll sandboard.



I hope you enjoyed!  More to come in Part 2, when I finish all of my winter travels.  Cheers and I hope everyone had a blessed and happy holiday season.  




Break Away

Greetings from the mystical pueblo of Cusco, Peru!  This week, I began my vacation from vacation…never thought that was possible, but let me assure you- it is.  Being in serious travel mode has reminded me once again how important traveling is for the soul.  By truly traveling (not luxury vacationing), I become vulnerable.  I have to get into taxis with strangers in cities I don’t know, I share dormitories and showers with fellow travelers, and I am at the mercy of whatever life hands me.  Sometimes my bank cards don’t work, buses break down, or I get caught in a heavy rain storm with all my luggage.  In the moment, these events can feel catastrophic especially after spending many weary hours on the road.  However, I have learned that it is extremely important to feel uncomfortable from time to time.  In retrospect, such experiences eventually become a fond memory and/or learning experience.  By traveling in this manner, we can break away from the norm.  Through this, we learn about ourselves and the world- it shakes up the monotony of daily life and allows us to be flexible, self-sufficient, and accepting.  These qualities are essential to living a peaceful and well-balanced life.

On November 24th, two very important people arrived in Bogotá: Tom and Janet, the founders of Magicians Without Borders.  It was a surprise visit that we put together only one week before their arrival.  Tom has been itching to get down here, but his ruptured pelvis limited his ability to do so.  Just 4 months after his car accident, both of his feet were on the ground in Colombia.  That in itself is inspiring.  For a last minute trip, we are very excited about all that happened during their 10 days here.   Again, thank you to all of you who have made donations to our project- Tom and Janet brought  two suitcases full of props that we will give to the kids in the magic club.  Those props were purchased with your donations.  During their visit, we spent the majority of our time with Carlos Lopez, whom I’ve mentioned before.  He has been amazing both as a support and as a friend and we are going to entrust him with managing the project when I leave.  The four of us went to the hospital and the foundation together two times.  There, we performed, taught, and shared many smiles and laughs with the patients and children.  I learned a lot by observing how Tom and Janet performed and taught people who speak a language that they don’t.  Magic truly is universal.


We spent one evening with Gustavo Lorgia in his home where we enjoyed learning about his journey as a magician and began brainstorming ideas for future collaboration.  Another evening, we visited Richard Sarmiento’s home/magic school which is Colombia’s version of the Magic Castle.  He is the other most prominent conjurer in Colombia.  He has very generously offered to share his school with us.  We can use the space to start another magic club, he is going have his students help teach the kids in this club, and he wants to be a part of everything we are doing.  This was completely unexpected and I believe this was the beginning of a very incredible partnership.  Another important highlight of their visit is that we met with Jim Russo, the Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy.  Magicians Without Borders has organized programs with the embassy in El Salvador and it looks promising that the same will be happening in Colombia upon my return from the trip.

There was something special happening while Tom and Janet were here.  Everything seemed to click.  With it being such a last minute trip, we had no expectations for what was going to happen, and we were happily surprised with all that we were able to do and accomplish during their brief visit.  We are looking forward to when they return with some of the magicians from El Salvador this March.

The past few weeks have been pretty intense.  In the midst of Tom and Janet’s visit, I was planning my trip to Peru, I was finishing my teaching obligations at the university while preparing to move apartments, and Johanna graduated from medical school.   It was challenging to decide how to approach my holiday vacation time.  I was meeting my friends Ty and Jessa here in Peru, but they have to leave for the states on December 15th.  Thus, I had to decide whether I would stick with them, go back to Colombia later for Christmas, or just make the trip as long as I possibly could and fly solo.  After some discernment, I decided to take the risk and stay on the road.  It came down to an extra 12 days of traveling vs. Christmas with friends in Bogotá.   This will be my first Christmas away from my family and I decided I would rather spend it traveling.  It will be interesting, and quite possibly a bit lonely, but I will welcome whatever comes my way.

Johanna and I had an important decision to make when I left for Peru as we will have a month apart during my travels.  Also, in early February, she will be moving to a town 2.5 hours from Bogotá to carry out her required year of social service in which she will be working for the Colombian Army and caring for soldiers and their families.  This was a big decision considering we have been dating less than two months.   We really enjoy the time we share together and thus decided to stay together.  We know there are challenges ahead, but we are not ready to give up on things at this point.   Despite the circumstances around our relationship, I feel good about where we are at and how we are approaching everything.  Of course, time will tell.

I literally just spent the majority of the last 18 hours trying to sort out some complications with my bank cards.  For some reason, I couldn’t get any card to work at an ATM and I was stuck without cash.  I have been in the midst of booking a Machu Picchu trek and needed money to make it happen.  Long story short, I finally got it sorted out and am leaving for the trek early tomorrow morning.  Ironically, I start the journey on 12/12/12- hopefully I make it to Machu Picchu before the end of the world!  Couldn’t be more excited.  It is an alternative trek to the classic Inka Trail.  Day 1 involves a downhill bike ride descending 2, 000 meters that is followed by a raft expedition on Class III rapids.  Day 2 is going to be a long day of hiking in the Andean Mountains followed by a refreshing soak in some natural hot springs.  Day 3 starts with a 4km zip line adventure on the highest and longest zip line in South America and is followed by another solid day of hiking.  The last day is a visit to the spectacular ruins of Machu Picchu.  I have honestly been dreaming of going to Machu Picchu ever since I saw Motorcycle Diaries over 6 years ago.  I am so stoked that my dream is about to be realized…and it will be in high style.

After living in a city with 9 million other people, I am looking forward to having some time in nature with PachaMama to re-gather myself.  After the trek, I have no idea what will be next.  I am leaning towards heading south and spending the majority of my time in Bolivia- Lake Titicacca and the famous salt flats near Uyuni.  That’s the beauty of breaking away- I don’t have to know.  And by traveling by myself, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want- as long as my bank cards let me take out money!

I am wishing all of you my very best this holiday season.  Treat yourself to something special and take a few moments to stop and appreciate it.  Make a point of doing at least one thing outside of your comfort zone.  Remember, there is nothing better than sharing a bit of the holiday spirit by doing something special for someone else- better if they are a stranger.  Break away from the norm, but please don’t break a leg!  Much love from Peru…

Pay Attention

Do you ever feel like you are chicken running around without a head? I know I sure do.  In a sense, it can possibly be a good thing if it is a metaphor for living with a little spontaneity.  However, if the metaphor resembles the chaos that engulfs your life, it might be worthwhile to examine how that can change.  It is important to pay attention.  If not, life will pass by in the blink of an eye before we even knew what happened.  Colombia has been great for me- it has allowed me to simplify.  My responsibilities are very specific: teach English, teach/perform magic, learn, and have fun.  Although I haven’t been keeping up with my meditation practice like I would like, I have been learning how to pay attention, and I believe this is a result of the relative simplicity of my life here.  Gratitude has been one of the most important teachers for paying attention.  So often, I am overcome with gratitude for all that is happening here.  And in that moment of gratitude, I am forced to stop and reflect on the multitudes of happenstance events/connections that have led me along the way.  The more I pay attention to these nuances, the more I realize and appreciate how dynamic my life is.



So I left you all hanging for a few weeks in terms of the kids’ big performance in Gustavo’s magic show.  There is only one way to explain it: pure magic.  As Daniel, Andres, Carlos Lopez (from Conectando Sonrisas), and myself joined Gustavo on stage, the heat from the stage lights was just as intense as the roaring applause we received after Gustavo introduced us to the audience.  Carlos and I both explained a little bit about ourselves and our organizations.  Then, all attention was on Daniel and Andres as they began their ball and vase routine.  I was so proud; they executed it perfectly with enthusiasm and showmanship.  Sharing that sense of empowerment with them is not something we will ever forget.  Just to put it in perspective, at that point, they had been studying magic for just a little over two months and they were already performing in a professional magic show in front of an audience of over 600 people!  Wow.   On top of this, it was also a special evening because we brought my 10 children from the magic club and Carlos arranged for 15 more children from Bella Flor to go to the show.  They were all in awe with the variety of talent they saw that night.  Check out this video that documents the event (in Spanish of course).

iIusion2012 from Conectando Sonrisas on Vimeo.

Last post, I mentioned that I was feeling some frustration in regards to the lack of discipline the kids had with practicing outside of the magic club.  The following week, it worsened and reached the point where I was considering cutting 2 of the kids in the club.  I sat down with the director of Bella Flor and we discussed our options and decided to implement mandatory practice hours outside of the club twice a week.  It is a required space that the kids go to in order to practice together.  I am grateful to share that this has completely changed the energy and enthusiasm of the club.  The two kids I was thinking of cutting are two of the children that are in most regular attendance at these practice sessions.  In the last three weeks, all of the children have advanced light-years ahead of where they were before we implemented these practice hours.  They are also learning many impressive tricks independently.  From the moment I show up at the foundation, I notice the difference immediately.  Now, when  I walk in the door of our practice room, the majority of the kids are already there, diligently practicing.  With this whole process, I have learned that they simply needed a little more structure for the process of the magic club to be effective.  They weren’t quite independent enough to manage their own time to come practice, but now that those times are in place, they are really taking off with the magic.  Because they are improving so much, their confidence is higher than ever, and because of this I am seeing passion and joy emerge like never before.  It is a beautiful thing.

Two weeks ago, I found myself and my performing partner in crime, Joe, strutting down the sidewalks of the barrio of Ciudad Bolivar rocking RayBans, backpacks, and shit-eating grins as TV cameras (a well-known reporter, camera man, and assistant) from Caracol (the largest TV network in Colombia) followed.  How can I take myself seriously with an experience like that?? Only in Colombia.  This was the second day I had TV cameras follow me; the first day, they came to film me teaching at my university.  At the university, it turned into quite a commotion as professors and deans were literally bickering over who would get an opportunity to be in front of the camera.  It was hysterical for me because they didn’t understand that the whole thing was not really about the university.  In Ciudad Bolivar, the film crew captured Joe and I performing at the hospital and they joined me with the magic club at the foundation.  It was quite an experience having TV cameras breathing down my neck for two full days- it was a lot of fun, but I was ready to be done by the end of the second day.  The program will be airing on the news either this week or next week.  It is a special they sometimes run during their news broadcasts called “Historias que hacen la diferencia” (Stories that make the difference).  I will be sure to find a way to share a copy of it with you all as soon as I get my hands on it.

Believe it or not, last Thursday I finished teaching my last class for the semester.  That went fast.  Next semester we are going to change things a bit- we will be offering less classes, but each class will last two hours instead of one.  We will only allow students who have been consistent this semester.  It has been exciting because with those who have been consistent, their English and comprehension has gotten noticeably better.  Immediately after that last class on Thursday, I put my RayBans back on and hopped on a plane to the famous breathtaking Caribbean city of Cartagena.  My friend Joe invited to me join him and his family there- they weren’t getting in until that Saturday, but I wanted to take advantage of having my Fridays off.  I was a little uneasy about going and not knowing a single person to hang out with, but I trusted I would meet people at the hostel I would be staying at.  I met three absolutely great Australian friends (of course, Australians are everywhere, especially in hostels)- Anthony, Jessica, and Bethany.  We took an overnight trip to an island off the coast where we went snorkeling, swam in a bioluminescent lagoon, explored mangroves, and ate a fresh crab and lobster dinner.  Leaving early couldn’t have worked out better.  The week with Joe’s family was amazing, and they were incredibly generous- I got to live like a king for a week.  We stayed in an amazing hotel, ate fine food, shared some good laughter, and got to enjoy the elections from abroad- congrats Obama!  Cartagena is truly an amazing city- it has everything: an old castle where many battles have been fought, colonial architecture, the Caribbean, a modern section, and a relaxed culture full of dancing and joy.








Meet Johanna.  She is pretty great.  We have been seeing each other for a bit over a month now.  We share a lot in common: we love hiking, we love philosophy and good conversation, we love laughing, and we both have a common interest- medicine.  She will actually be graduating from medical school at the end of this month!  Last weekend, I went with her to her family’s finca in SanGil, which is the outdoor adventure capital of Colombia.  On the finca, they produce coffee, and during harvest season which is right now, they pick over 2,000 kilos of coffee a day!  It was an interesting weekend to say the least.  The main motive for the trip was for me to meet her parents so that they would be comfortable with the prospect of her joining Ty, Jessa, and I for our December travels in Peru.  I think we were a little premature with the whole meeting the parents thing.  Her parents are extremely traditional and on my first day there, they asked me to take out my earrings.  I really didn’t want to and felt it was rude of them to request this, but I wanted to respect the fact that I was a guest in their home, so I did.  Throughout the weekend we did have a lot of fun and went on some amazing adventures such as cave exploring, rafting, rapelling down a 70 meter waterfall , and visiting Colombia’s famous Parque de Chicamocha (2nd largest canyon in the world).  However, there was an underlying tension that was brewing all weekend.  I could tell her parents did not exactly care for me or the fact that I was seeing their daughter.  The thing that bothered me the most is that they never gave me a chance- they judged me the second they saw my earrings and never really attempted to get to know who I am.  It was definitely an interesting cultural experience- in the middle of a culture that goes back many generations and is as solid as cement.  It was also one that I wasn’t prepared for- I figured that if Johanna invited me, there weren’t going to be any such issues.  For me, culture differences are something to learn from- to enjoy and to even find humor in.  For them, culture differences are something that is completely negative.  Johanna and I have been enjoying our time together, but after this weekend, we obviously share enormous differences and that means that there is a lot that remains to be seen with the trip, with her graduation, and with us.



The experience with Johanna’s family is exactly what I am talking about in terms of paying attention.  When you see the photos from the weekend, you would never know what was really happening because it was all happening under the table.  However, I have been learning that those seemingly subtle, underlying things are actually not so small.  In fact, I venture to say that they are more important than what is obvious and out in the open.  That’s why it is important to pay attention.  When we are busy or do not stop to examine such cues, we can lose that which is most important or meaningful.  Truly paying attention can help prevent grief and it can also bring immense joy.

Whatever you pay attention to, will grow most important in your life.  Ten years ago, I never imagined that magic would become such an integral part of my life.  Lately, I have been giving magic a lot of attention and it is becoming increasingly more important to me.

What do you want to pay attention to?