Monthly Archives: November 2012

Cape Coral, Florida

After Jacksonville, Florida, we go to Fort Lauderdale with great expectations to find a boat. But there is nothing for us and we are greatly disappointed…The best think that happens during our stay in this big crazy place, apart from spending a few days on the beach, is getting in touch with Harry Schell from Edward Yacht Sales, who is now our boat broker and is doing a truly amazing job researching the boats we are interested in, finding others that could be suitable, giving us plenty of good advise. He send us to Cape Coral to check out a boat. A 47 Wauquiez, French boat in good shape, one we are considering buying. We stay in Cape Coral, on the west side of Florida, for three days.

Here is an example of one day and all the things that happened in it.

We wake up early in the morning under a mango tree in a park next to the beach. The air fresh, the wind tamed, everyone greeting us Good morning how are you. We go jogging and then, just when we are ready to leave for the beach, we meet David and Doris. They are curious about so many things and come visit us inside the motor home. Our first guests since we left Canada. Most people so far have been suspicious of Baba Ghanoush, even racists. They see her old, wrinkled, poor looking, not like the luxurious expensive shiny motor homes, and they immediately form some sort of a negative opinion about us. Once, they even called the police just like that, to check and make sure. People are like that, they judge you based on appearance, based on your clothes, based on your haircut, based on your car, based on the things you own, based on your disorders, and they don’t even try to get to know you before they sentence you to eternal disapproval. There are some exceptions and David and Doris are an example of such an exception. “If I don’t open this book, how will I know what is written inside. If I don’t talk to you how will I know what kind of a person you are”, says David. And we talk for some time. We talk for the amount of time needed to get to know each other.

Then we go at the beach. Viktor doesn’t want to come so he stays in the motor home reading and relaxing alone. At the beach, Maya makes a new friend, Briana; I make a big sand alligator, Ally.

The Sand Alligator

Shortly after we are all set up at the beach, Doris shows up, tells us there is a Thanksgiving dinner today at the church; we should hurry up if we want to get some free food. She takes us with her car to the church. There are many people inside a huge haul sitting around big tables. We all take a seat and we are immediately served by young volunteers. Everyone gets a full plate of turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy, it is so tasty! We even get two portions to go, one for Viktor and one for David, who missed the party. Before we leave, we (and a hundred more people) get a big box full of potatoes, some canned greens, bread, and a nice frozen turkey, everything free! I can’t stop smiling, I love this!

An hour later we are back at the beach again. Briana is waiting for Maya, Ally is waiting for me. Next, we feed birds, we see a girl doing a back flip, we meet three boys with a shovel digging a pool, and we cut Maya’s hair at sunset, as we have planned it, as a ritual, as a performance for the ocean and the seagulls, as a tribute to the sand alligator of Cape Coral who became alive at midnight and forever disappeared in the night waters of the Mexican Gulf.

I believe that there are no good places or bad places in the world. What we consider a good place is a place where we had a good experience and vice versa. We develop a relationship with a place. A good relationship can transform the most common, sad, even desolate place into a good place. A bad event can spoil your relationship even with the most beautiful of places. The hardest thing is leaving a good place and its good people, Briana, David and Doris, thank you for being good friends even only for a day…

Cape Coral was a good place to us.

Briana and Maya feeding the seagulls

A girl doing a backflip

Danton, Isaac and Marc. 
-What are you going to do with this shovel?
-Dig.
-Dig what?
-Dig a pool.
They start digging the pool but soon abandon the project and one by one bury each other in the sand instead.

Cutting Maya’s hair

Short-haired Maya

Briana and Maya, new friendship

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Categories: adventure, family, motor home, off grid, photography, RV, travel | 7 Comments

Four People in a Caravan. Life in and Around Baba Ghanoush

Let me take you for a tour of our old caravan Baba Ghanoush, so that you can get an idea of where and how we spend a big portion of our days and nights since we left home in the beginning of November.

Maya ,making potato salad

You can come in trough the driver’s door but better don’t if you are not the driver. Better use the main entrance on the right-hand side and please take off you shoes, as we are trying to keep it clean. When you enter, you will be surprised, almost not going to believe how spacey and nice it is inside. This is because you are judging our Baba Ghanoush based on her outside appearance. I admit, she is not in her prime, looks old and wrinkly; a total wreck just days away from falling apart and passing away in RV heaven, God bless her soul. But I am telling you, she is good spirited and healthy as a horse, as a hundred horses and more! Haven’t you learned already, the true beauty is inside, el cuerpo es solo un estuche; lo que importa es lo de adentro.

Viktor, playing his x-box

My first impression of Baba Ghanoush was, Wow! she is huge! There is place for two additional seats between the driver and the passenger seat on the front. Behind the driver seat there is a couch along the wall facing a small table  and an armchair on the opposite wall behind the passenger seat. On the small table Ivo installed a 32 inch flat screen TV and Viktor plays his x-box on it. This area is the living room which becomes Viktor’s room at night. He sleeps on the couch which is big enough for a tall and thin person like him without even opening it. When he is not in a lazy mood, he does open it and the couch transforms into a queen-size bed.

Computers for everyone

Next, step into the kitchen and the dining room. A table big enough for four with two double seats on both sides is where we eat, study, draw, and play cards in the evenings when we don’t run the generator in order to save on gas and so we have no electricity. Ivo, Viktor, and Maya play this new card game Magic Cards full of creatures, lands, artefacts  spells, sorcery, and other such things that can give you the shivers, while i prefer to read a book or write. For light we use three solar-battery lanterns and we can also use the stove which runs on propane and thus cook meals without the electricity on. Sometimes we run the generator for a few hours and then everyone gets comfortably in front of some sort of a monitor. Viktor usually plays Skyrim or Mindcraft on the x-box, Maya plays Animal Jam on line and Ivo and me we use internet to research boats and marinas. We get free internet at every McDonald and at many other places everywhere (next to motels, coffee shops, marinas, etc.) Sometimes we watch film together. Last time we watched Werner Herzog’s  The Wild Blue Yonder and we all fell asleep before the end of the movie. It is not my favourite Herzog film but it is still an amazing transformation of archival documentary underwater and space exploration footage into a fictional story about a failed extraterrestrial invasion. It is so weird it is hard to describe, but if you are familiar with Herzog you know what to expect. Kind of.

Maya and Viktor in the morning. Rise and shine!

The dining room becomes Maya’s room a night. The table falls down a bit so that the cushions can be arranged to form a nice comfortable bed. Opposite this dining table is the kitchen with a few cupboards and drawers, the stove, a sink , a microwave, and a fridge. A small but well equipped kitchen. It has everything we need to store products and prepare tasty meals.  So far I have made soups, potato salad, scrambled eggs, spaghetti, and even palachinki (the transcription for the Bulgarian word for crepes). Palachinki is our family’s favourite breakfast and there isn’t a soul in the world who would refuse a hot palachinka with strawberry jam under any circumstances, I am sure. For those poor creatures who still haven’t tried them, here is how the make them:

Mix 3 eggs, 3 cups of milk, and 3 cups of all purpose flour, a spoon of sugar (honey or brown sugar will do as well), a bit of salt, and some vanilla. Poor about half a cup of the batter in preheated non-stick pan greased with a bit of butter before every palachinka. Flip them when one side is ready. Eat them hot!

You can wrap just about anything in a palachinka; ham and cheese  your favourite jam, Nutella, etc. They are like the bread in a sandwich, only much tastier. And be careful, you might get addicted!

The Making of Palachinki

The Eating of Palachinki

For lunch we eat whatever is available, trying to keep it healthy and inexpensive. Here is an example:

Lunch for Four

One package hot dogs                               $ 1.00

Half a dozen eggs                                        $ 0.80

Two pound sweet potatoes (boiled)   $ 0.70

A third of 1 package wheat bread        $ 1.00

Two beers                                                      $ 1.40

A third of one celery                                $ 0.30

total           (for four people)        $5.20 

(The beer here is so much cheaper than in Canada, we feel obliged to drink one or two per day, plus it is a wise think to do in the Floridian heat.

On the back, just before the big bedroom, there is a big wardrobe which holds all our clothes and a small bathroom with a toilet, a sink, and a shower which we decided not to use unless we stop at a campground with a full hook up. Instead, we use showers, toilets, and laundry available at every marina we stop for a night or other places. This can be very inconvenient, but we are kind of experienced and used to this way of travelling given that we have been working as long distance truck drivers for years now, so it is not a problem at all. Besides, now most of the time we are stopped at one place and spend much more time at the beach or at some marina and not actually travelling. It is fun to find alternative ways of doing things and so far the craziest thing we’ve done was taking a shower at the beach, with soap and shampoo, and all.

As you see, our vehicle is also a 3 ½ apartment furnished with everything our humble family of four needs. The only problems we have with Baba Ghanoush is the amount of gas she consumes ( about $1,000 to get from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale in two weeks), and finding parking space in crowded cities. We learned a $300 lesson here in Ft Lauderdale a few days ago, when she got abducted and towed away from the parking in front of a small shopping mall while we were blissfully splashing at the near beach. Now we know where to park and where not to.

Early morning exercises, Cape Coral, Florida

Categories: adventure, family, motor home, off grid, photography, RV, sailing, travel | 5 Comments

Green Cove Springs Marina, Florida

Meanwhile, we are fast forwarded to Florida. At the first marina we stop in Virginia, several people, a boat broker included, advise us not to loose our time looking for a boat in North Carolina or South Carolina, not even in Georgia. “The boat you want is in Florida”, they say, after we tell them what boat we are looking for.

We are looking for 44 feet or bigger,thick fibreglass, none of the fancy popular models like Catalina, Beneteau, Janeau, which are appealing to the eye and affordable but lightly built and are so called “pleasure boats”, not fit for extended blue-water cruising. Has to be a sloop, or only one mast, not a ketch (with two masts); cutter is better than a centre cockpit, but this is one thing we can compromise with; draft 6 feet maximum; step on keel mast; in good general condition  especially the hull. We are not much concerned with speed, we are not going to race her, but we will live in her and take her around the world, so it has to be safe first, as well as sturdy and comfortable for a family of four.

A 44 footer is considered a big boat, and for this reason mainly it is most probable to find one in Florida, the sailboat capital of the world.

So, instead of Virginia Beach, as we had planned, we go to Jacksonville, FL, skipping three states. We stop at the first little marina we see there, and ask two guys on the pier who to talk to about a sailboat. They are very helpful and welcoming people, both offer their own boats which happen to be for sale (it looks like every boat in Florida IS for sale), but as soon as we tell them we need 44 feet and over, they back up. They have smaller ones. The office at the marina is closed already, it is almost 7 p.m., but we can talk to a broker there tomorrow, they tell us. We thank them and we go to the public parking not far from there. We are not parked yet, when two cops surround us flashing their lights. What the hell!!! The guys we talked to called the police! The police (two young women) can’t tell us why. They actually don’t know why. Nobody knows. I bet, not even the guy who called them knows why he did it. Probably he thought our Baba Ganoush looks suspicious. I bet this is it. They have never seen such a weird old motor home inhabited by people who claim are looking to buy a boat the size of a ship. I admit it makes no sense. Still, it is not enough reason to call the police, is it? Is this how the people of Florida show their hospitality to us, friendly Canadians? I am outraged. The police checks our ID-s, I give them my expired student card, and everything looks OK. Even our 1988 motor home seams to be legal and we are finally left alone. I am mad for the rest of the evening, I can’t believe it. I want to find the guy who called on us and scream at him. But I don’t.

Next morning, we go to another marina and we talk to a woman at the office who seems extremely amused at the fact that we don’t have a phone. She laughs so sincerely I start thinking it is funny myself. She gives us a phone number of the best broker in town and even lends us, poor people, a phone. One hour later we meet a guy at the biggest marina- a port- in Jacksonville area. It is impressive. We haven’t seen anything like it so far. A dirt road leads to 10 huge piers. We drive by big fishing boats and old ships, cranes and alien-looking rusty structures before we get to a small building in the middle of a boatyard. Most of the boats are out and dry, bearded people busy around them, scraping them, patching them, painting them.

This is a hardcore marina, nothing like the fancy one in Virginia. There are trailers and motor homes even older than ours permanently parked on the sides amidst old dark trees, thick vegetation climbing all over them.

This is NOT Baba Ghanoush, but a distant relative of hers. (Note the black cat in the flower pot)

Here old captains live while fixing their boats; people from other places and times, more ancient then mythology itself, full of stories and ocean salts. We feel at home.

We meet our broker excited; we will finally visit a sailboat for sale! He points to a boat, nice and big enough, but we don’t even go in to see it, it is not good enough for Ivo; the keel is too big, the draft is 7 feet, it is too much. Ivo knows exactly what he wants and he will not compromise. He is like that with everything and I kind of envy him for that. So this one is out of consideration, and after a short talk, the broker tells us there is nothing like the boat we imagine, not here at least, and he goes away. We are a bit disappointed…

We spend the night parked there, next to the water. It is the quietest of all nights since we left, and the hottest. All the buzzing and screeching, all the noises from the busy daytime machinery go to rest. As the dark falls, little lamps illuminate the boats from the inside like Halloween pumpkins and only black cats are left out to roam the night.

The next morning we talk to some of the boat owners and meet some interesting people at the porch in front of the office, free coffee for everyone, who give us much valuable information.

Tyler

It is amazing how much we have learned for the past days just talking to people. The best advise everyone agrees on is “Just go strait to Fort Lauderdale and South Florida. The boat you are looking for is there”, they say. And they know.

Hobart

Thus, we get to Fort Lauderdale only two weeks after we left home and we haven’t visited a single boat so far.

Categories: adventure, family, off grid, photography, sailing, travel | 3 Comments

When the Money Runs Out?

The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it.     -Thoreau

For the first time since I started this blog I have a serious question about our enterprise, a question most difficult to answer. A dear friend wrote to me

So – I read the blog. Exciting stuff! Wish you best of luck in your undertaking. I am extremely curious where this adventure will take you. Counterculture has been dwindling since the 1970 because of stagflation and other reasons plaguing many hippies with economic issues and throttling their opportunity to live outside mainstream society. Maybe you’ll reverse the trend. I am not saying this jokingly, but for after the money runs out, have you honed your survivalist skills, i.e. fishing, hunting, fire-making, farming and so on? Docking a boat in Australia and finding odd jobs in this economic climate, seems of low probability, but surely is exciting. On the other hand, if indeed what you are doing can be done without resorting to survival skills, it would be great to know. Your journey can turn into an interesting book – that could be one source of income for you – royalties! Good luck to you Buddy.”   – Ivan Mitev

I answer him this in our correspondence:

Thank you so much for this comment! Having a discussion on issues that are truly affecting our reality; sharing different perspectives and opinions, as well as personal experiences, is what I expected from the blog. And most of all, I appreciate any helpful advice or information, and even doubtful questions that could make us rethink and re-evaluate a situation. 


You are questioning the probability to find a job when the money runs out considering the global economical climate, suggesting using survivalist skills as the only alternative for, well…surviving.


We have some basic survivalist knowledge, but by living on a boat and exploring natural wilderness in many different places on the planet, we are hoping to acquire and develop survival skills such as fishing, hunting, shelter and fire-making, and even farming, although farming is an attribute to sedentary life (depends how long we stay in one place). I think such skills are absolutely necessary for anyone who is undertaking extended off grid travels. 


That being said, I still do believe that it is possible to have some income from odd jobs in foreign places, depending not only on the economical climate, but also on individual skills. It could be really hard to find such an opportunity, I agree, but my greatest confidence comes from the fact that Ivo and I both have many diverse skills and knowledge that have been serving us so far in finding a job whenever we need one. Especially Ivo. He is a handy guy who can repair anything in a house or even build one; he is a professional mechanic, truck driver, and cabinet maker; can repair car and marine engines; can weld, work with wood and metal, has some basic electrician skills, and he is also good with computers and software. He is extremely resourceful and applies his lateral thinking to problematic situations in his work. He has extensive trucking experience, furniture making, construction, as well as some farming knowledge and experience. He is extremely efficient and fast worker and all his employers loved him for that. 


Me, I speak five languages and graduated in Fine Arts, minor Spanish, major photography. As part of my Spanish language studies, I also took a course on teaching a second language. I could do “odd art-jobs” in fields such as sculpture, painting, drawing, installation, textile, visual arts and off course photography. And for any photographer, going out in the world is like for a cook going grocery shopping. I also love film and literature; I like to write, although my English and my creative writing skills still need improvement. My hope is that maybe thanks to our unconventional travels, I will be able to produce photographic work, commissioned work, freelance, a book, yes, why not!, who knows, that will lead to some income. And, last but not least, I am also a professional truck driver and together with Ivo we are an experienced team, a profession in high demand and extremely well paid in North America and Australia. Also, we could always come back to Canada if we have to and start trucking the next day. This would be the worst case scenario.


Finally, what we are doing is not such a big deal; lots of people are doing the exactly same thing or even crazier things than this. We have met some of them and they have encouraged us a lot saying, It is not as hard as it looks. 


For me these travels are a unique opportunity to make art, to spend time with my whole family and be in charge of my children’s intellectual and physical development; to see the world, and to satisfy my hunger for adventure and freedom. It is our dream, and even if there are many hardships on the way, I am willing to take the risk, as I have always done, hoping for the best. But what will actually happen, will we be able to pull it off, who knows?

A day after I write this answer, I go to a small laundry room at a marina in Virginia to wash a bag of dirty clothes. There, sitting on a shelf, are some old books left for the traveller to read while the machine is busy washing clothes, or to take away if he so wishes. Among them, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Thoreau:Walden and Other Writings. Now this is a find! I’m taking those two. My book collection is growing, soon we won’t be able to move from the weight of the books and I will have to start leaving them on shelves at marinas. (By the way, the wet books I found in New Jersey are now dry but all curly except the thick one Hitler’s Scientists. This one will never dry and will have to go in the garbage. The others will undergo straitening procedures.)

Back in the motor home, after the laundry is done, I start reading Thoreau and I am delighted… He turns out to be an eccentric,  the kind of harmless anarchist I have always considered myself to be. Preaching individualism, simplicity and non-conformity, Thoreau’s writings influenced many, among them Tolstoy and Gandhi. He is my new-found hero.

First I devour A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, a contemplative account of a one-week journey by boat with his brother composed mainly of lengthy descriptions of natural scenes and occurrences as well as personal reflections written so delicately, so beautifully, my mind is glowing with joy; I can’t get enough of it. Suddenly he writes:

Sadi tells who may travel; among others, “A common mechanic, who can earn a subsistence by the industry of his hand, and shall not have to stake his reputation for every morsel of bread, as philosophers have said.” He may travel who can subsist on the wild fruits and game of the most cultivated country. A man may travel fast enough and earn his living on the road. I have at times been applied to to do work when on a journey; to do tinkering and repair clocks, when I had a knapsack on my back. A man once applied to me to go into a factory, stating conditions and wages, observing that I succeeded in shutting the window of a railroad car in which we were travelling, when the other passengers had failed. “Hast thou not heard of a Sufi, who was hammering some nails into the sole of his sandal; an officer of cavalry took him by the sleeve, saying, Come along and shoe my horse.” Farmers have asked me to assist them in haying, when I was passing their fields. A man once applied to me to mend his umbrella, taking me for an umbrella-mender, because, being on a journey, I carried an umbrella in my hand while the sun shone. Another wished to buy a tin cup of me, observing that I had one strapped to my belt, and a sauce-pan on my back.”   -Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849

I discover with amusement that these words confirm what I was trying to explain, only he wrote them in the 184o-s and the economical climate was surely different back then, so one may argue they are not valid today. Still, I think most of what Thoreau wrote so many years ago can be applied and interpreted within the same lines even in today’s social context, and that makes his teachings universal.

Next I read Civil Disobedience, an essay he wrote after a night in jail for refusing to pay government taxes, and Walden, his absolute best and my young love for Thoreau grows ever stronger. But the fact that so much of what he wrote almost two hundred years ago is still valid today; the fact that nothing in the essence of today’s society has truly changed; not for the better at least, is sad and disappointing. Looks like people did not learn from their mistakes; did not even realise them. The result: today still ” The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

 Thoreau’s greatest wisdom is Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity. It is not so much a question of how one will earn a living, but how he will manage his earnings. If one is content with little, one doesn’t need to earn much. In Walden, I find passages so inspiring I feel almost enlightened. Still, I don’t think I learned anything radically new, I only get reassured that we are on the right path, the right path for us that is.

“The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?”

  

Categories: adventure, family, money, off grid, Thoreau, travel | 2 Comments

Sailboats in Virginia

There were a few problems with our motor home, so we waited two days in Ashland, Virginia for our Baba Ghanoush to be fixed in a truck repair shop. We got new tires, front alignment, new springs, and repaired drag link. Total $1300… Big blow for our budget but still a lot less expensive than if we had done it in Canada. Now we are upgraded and there shouldn’t be anything major to repair any time soon.

Chuck (as in Chuck Norris), the mechanic who fixed the springs, the steering, and the alignment of Baba Ghanoush

Today, finally, we started looking at some boats.

And some of the boats looked back at us.

The people we met were happy to give us all sorts of advise.

Wayne from Texas

We learned a lot about where to look for a boat, what models are best for our needs, what size boat will be most suitable for extended cruising with two big kids.

Agricultural activities at the marina

The weather in York River Haven Yacht Club, Virginia is peacefully orange at sunset.

We didn’t find a good boat for us here, so tomorrow we will be going to Virginia beach. We will be visiting lots of marinas in Hampton.

We are hoping to find one there!

Maya is meditating on a circle of rope

Categories: adventure, family, off grid, photography, sailing, travel | 3 Comments

People, Drowned Objects. A Photo Essay

Lying on her side on a bicycle path, the first sailboat we see on our journey is a surreal sight.

A sailboat washed up by hurricane Sandy on the bicycle path in Hoboken NJ, November 4, 2012

If I was some creature from a distant land that has somehow appeared in Hoboken, I would think that this is a strange place populated by strange people. I would not know that something terrible had happened here just days ago.

Flooded building, Hoboken NJ, November 4, 2012

I would not know why there are small dead fishes lying flat in the middle of the streets.

A dead fish, Hoboken NJ, November 4, 2012

The sidewalks are full of drowned objects, basement creatures forgotten in dark corners, memories dug up for a last time awaiting their final journey to the landfills of New Jersey.

A damaged painting of the Twin Towers, Hoboken NJ, November 4, 2012

I would probably think that in the beginning of winter a sad and silent spring-cleaning festival has been organized here.

Portrait Gallery

The first person I meet in a dark wet basement is Terrie. She looks like someone from outer space with a gas mask, a flash light on her head and plastic bags on the feet.  Her basement got flooded and she is emptying it all up.

Terrie

The next person I meet is Enrique from Ecuador. He is helping Terrie to clean up. Enrique doesn’t speak English so I get a chance to practise my Spanish. He urges me to take a mirror with a heavy wood-carved frame.

Enrique from Ecuador

After Enrique, I meet Major Charles Kelly from the Salvation Army. I never thought that the Salvation Army IS an actual army with majors and all…They are here to help people with shelter and supplies, he tells me.

Major Charles Kelly

Next to a public park in a residential area I talk for a bit with Morgan, a volunteer worker on a lunch break helping to clean up the city after the storm . He tells me where I can get some hot empanadas.

Morgan, a volunteer worker

Further down the street a soldier from the U. S.  Army poses for me. His name tag reads Rodriguez. He explains that the Army is bringing in supplies and equipment and his job is to protect a small area on the main street close to the City Hall for these operations. He thanks me for asking. Asking what, I ask him. “Asking if I don’t mind to have my picture taken. Usually people just shoot without asking me.”

Rodriguez, a soldier from the U S Army

I also ask many questions a young guy named Alex from Vinton, Iowa. He works as a volunteer for FEMA, department of Homeland Security, an organisation that is supposed to help people during disasters. I ask him if he has seen a documentary entitled Camp FEMA, a much more sinister explanation of the organisation’s role during times of distress. No, he says. He has come all this way along with many other college kids hoping to help.

http://www.campfema.com/

Alex from Vinton, Iowa, a volunteer for FEMA

Down the Washington street, I ask a Hoboken policeman to pose for me. Officer Nicholas Burke. Initially he refuses, telling me that he is not supposed to pose for pictures and suggests I photograph him incognito from a distance. But then we start talking about photography and finally he is happy to pose. Tells me he is a photographer himself. We understand each other.

Officer Nicholas Burke, Hoboken Police Department

I am happy to have met all these people who talked to me about helping and carrying for each other in times of crisis.

Categories: Photo Essays | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

After the Storm

The next day we get up around 8:00 and keep going south towards New Jersey without fuelling. We figure it is more economical if we are lighter and we travel at half tank. This is a smart thing to do, except when you are heading directly towards an area hit by a super storm and most of the gas stations are closed down. Soon we start seeing endless lines of cars parked in the emergency lane on the highway waiting for their turn to fuel and we realize our mistake but it is too late. We are now at quarter tank.

People waiting for fuel
Hoboken, NJ
November 3, 2012

People  with jerry cans and even five-gallon water bottles are waiting in lines at the few open gas stations. Who knows how long they will be waiting for a few gallons of fuel. On Tuesday, hurricane Sandy has hit badly this region  and three days later there are  still many places  with no electricity and no gas. It is incredible how dependant we are on things like oil and electricity and how suddenly and unexpectedly things can go wrong.

We get to New Jersey at about 8 pm. We drive through some neighborhood with no electricity. All buildings are dark; the streets are deserted; only police cars with their red and blue lights wait at almost every corner. Like a dark forest, a city at night with no electricity is a terrifying post apocalyptic place.

We are almost out of gas. So we spend the next two cold nights parked in Jersey City without using the generator for heating. We switch on the propane stove instead and we keep the oven door open, blue fire burning inside, heating the whole place. For light we have three small solar lanterns that Ivo bought from e-bay. They are great!

Fuel Relief Station
Hoboken NJ
November 3, 2012

Saturday and Sunday we visit our friends in New Jersey, a young family with a cute four-month-old baby. They live in a penthouse in a building just across Manhattan. Ivo spent the first day helping our friend fixing his Ducati motor bike which, along with his two other cars, got submerged in the flooded garage of the building during hurricane Sandy. The two cars, along with many others, have drowned in terrible agony and there is no hope for them, but the bike had good chances to be resuscitated. Ivo has been studying how to repair motors, and this is a skill which often comes in handy. So they take apart the motor and start cleaning it from the salty water.

In the meantime, Viktor and I go for a tour in Hoboken. Our friend lends us two bicycles. Hoboken is a city in New Jersey that got hit by the storm really badly and the things that we see and experience there are truly heartbreaking. This is the ghost town we passed through last night and there is still no electricity. Now in the light of the day, people are out on the streets, waiting for hours at emergency fuel relief tanks, getting a free hot meal in big heated by generators tents, taking out flooded possessions from basements, slowly cleaning up the mess Sandy has left behind.

Wet books on the side walk in Hoboken
November 3, 2012

We spend the whole afternoon riding around, eating hot chicken noodle soup and burritos. I stumble upon some wet books thrown on the sidewalk and take a few. They are great books, some are in Spanish and I have studied them at Concordia University in my Spanish classes. Leyendas de Guatemala by Asturias for example is a treasure to me. I also find one titled Hitler’s scientists and I am happy to recognize doctor Joseph Mengele on the front picture. I have been researching him for quite some time now and I haven’t read this book. But it is dripping wet. I take it anyway, the others too, and I will try to dry them up, but most probably will have to get rid of them if they rot. There are so many other nice objects and furniture out on the sidewalks that got damaged by polluted seawater. There are also many that no one ever needed any ways and were just jamming the basements, waiting to be thrown out. The amount of garbage piled on the sidewalks is overwhelming.

Piles of flooded objects on the sidewalk
Hoboken NJ
November 3, 2012

An Emergency Management trailer
in front of the City Hall
Hoboken NJ

Categories: Our Journey | Leave a comment

The Border

The first night we sleep together with two other motor homes from Quebec. Baba Ghanoush is the one with the pointy nose. She might be old and not very beautiful but she got the moves.
November 1, 2012

November 1, as scheduled, we leave our  house early in the afternoon and one hour and a half later get to the border at Lacolle.

The Border scares and fascinates me. A fragile imaginary line, the Border divides lands and contains them. It is an end to one reality and a beginning to another. Crossing it always brings back memories from another life.

The officer at the entry booth checks our Canadian passports and asks us the usual questions, “Where are you going today? How much money do you carry with you? Do you have any tobacco or alcohol?”

We are going to Florida; we have about $500; no, we don’t have any tobacco or alcohol.

And then comes the tough question, “Have you ever been arrested in the United States?”

To this one we answer like this:

Yes, sir. We crossed the Mexican/American border twelve years ago and entered illegally into the United States. We swam across Rio Grande in the middle of the night with our three-years-old son in a garbage bag. The same night we got arrested. We applied for refugee protection and the very next morning were released on our own recognizance to await our trial. After seven months of incredibly miserable life in New York, we abandoned our refugee case and in May 2001 applied for asylum in Canada. Two years later we got accepted as refugees there and today we are Canadian citizens.

But this explanation, no matter how detailed, is never enough. We have been working as long distance truck drivers since 2006 crossing the border twice almost every week, and every time we get stopped for a secondary immigration inspection which can go on between 30 minutes and 6 hours. We never got used to it. We are always afraid that something will go wrong and they will not let us cross over.

Again, we are waiting our turn in a room full of people. Two hours of intense worrying while another officer is checking our case, reading our long and complicated file, asking us questions, writing some more in the file which is now a twelve-volume saga, consulting with his superior officers, asking us more questions. No, we do not need a waiver in order to travel to the USA; we used to need one but not anymore. No, we did not overstay in the USA; on the contrary, we abandoned our refugee case there and left before our hearing date. And so on, and so on…

Finally, the officer gets it. He returns our passports and we cross over to the other side. The Border is now behind us. My belly butterflies suddenly disappear. I think, they will be waiting for me to return there, in the big waiting room at the border. We plunge into the Big Unknown.

The border scares and fascinates me.

After a few hours we stop at a service area in Albany, New York. We park in a spot beside two other motor homes from Quebec. It is migratory season. The Snow Birds are flying south. For those who don’t know, the Snow Birds are retired couples from Quebec who spend every winter in luxurious camp grounds in Florida. Imagine thousands of elderly couples living together in communities some of them so numerous, they even have their own newspaper printed in French. By the way, a friend with whom I took photography courses at Concordia University, Mika Goodfriend, did an incredibly beautiful national prize winning photo project last year about the Snow Birds.

So now we are almost a part of the Snow Birds. Only, we are younger and our motor home is older and much more bitten up funky-looking than any of those luxurious ones. So, we are kind of like Ugly Duckling among a flock of experienced Canadian geese. Still, we migrate together gracefully in a perfect formation down the highway, and we huddle close to each other at night at rest areas and gas stations until we reach our nesting grounds down in Florida.

Categories: adventure, family, off grid, sailing, travel | Leave a comment

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