Posted by: PG | July 22, 2010

Love, Pain, Faith, Joy, Life

I feel the pain in Bernhard’s eyes when he speaks. For many years, Gabi has been his life’s effort, nay, his life. Perhaps, however, a resolution is on the horizon. In the past couple particularly intense weeks, he has relived nearly 30 years of trauma and drama. He has come to understand that with each epileptic fit, she takes on the only defense available to the scared little girl she remains within. As she writhes and flops, she psychologically armors herself against the epic, horror-ridden transgression her father committed so many years ago.

Bit by bit, over a period of days, his story emerges. He held his family of four together as mother and wife Gabi steadily deteriorated. He took on multiple jobs as necessary to support her care. He researched with chagrin and determination the pharmaceuticals the under-caring Austrian doctors baselessly prescribed. (His sensitivity to Gabi’s condition provided more insight than diplomas could.) He stared down her family, ever ready to sacrifice its weakest member, at ten paces more than once.

Results aside, the ability to have complete faith in another human being is one of the finest qualities a person can possess.
–Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

When I look at Bernhard I see a Saint. Saint Bernhard. I don’t choose that word lightly. But even better is that he hasn’t even a clue that he is. He has greater faith than anybody I have ever met. He sees Gabi for who she is beyond this illness. He sees her sleeping potential and rarely fails to look past her ongoing crisis. He only smiles and shows affection when she occasionally offers nonsensical non sequiturs. It matters not that he disclaims a higher power. (For it may be said, is there a mightier force than Love?) For me, it would be impossible to meet him and not be moved by his optimism and single-minded dedication.

Bernhard and I parted ways in the Amazon before I ever witnessed any resolution for he and Gabi. I have a standing promise from him to keep me updated. But results aside! Faith, it seems to me, isn’t at all about striving for the results you thought you wanted. It is about the ability to see the universal wisdom in all that actually happens.

Bernhard provides inspiration to me as I continue onward in Peru, my last international stop. On a 5 day trek to Machu Picchu (on Salkantay not the Inca trail), I am hit by ailment after ailment. One more course of Cipro? Check. One more tussle with altitude sickness? Check. One more rolled ankle? Check.

I think about wanting to fast forward through the ailments but of course life is in the living and in the experiences, as literally and figuratively crappy as they may be. (As if I had the option anyway. What am I Adam Sandler in Click?) Seeing the wisdom in crap–Golden Poopy returns! (Wonderlust: Golden Poopy) What is it with me and trekking anyway? Some Immodium Brooke gave me back in January and some antibiotics Tammy gave me back in November come through in a big way. I backpack like a squirrel.

Speaking of gold, when Machu Picchu is the gleaming pot at the end of the torn, stretched and hungry, nonetheless rainbow, ailments do not move beyond pesky status. Unlike me coming through US customs back in the days of long hair and facial hair. That was code red all the way. An incredibly, assuredly, in every way possible “random” code red. Although I do in fact have brown skin, I didn’t look anything like that unkempt Indian dude from Lost.

Possibly, no tourist destination on earth is more hyped and as easily capable of living up to the hype. I speak with some knowledge having worked as a janitor at Disney World, another highly hyped tourist destination, one summer. If eskimos have 64 words for “snow” to match the reality of their lives, Machu Picchu has a lexicon with just as many words for “easily surpassing already overhyped expectations”, and zero for “disappointment”. (I once spelled disappointment as “dissapointment” in a regional spelling bee (at Proctor’s for my Nisky peeps), so I always have to keep my eye out for that one. The irony of misspelling that particular word is of course not lost on me.). (By the way, Disney, I believe, petitioned Webster’s to add 63 words each for “long lines” and “overpriced”.) A group of great people, including Scott, Luke, Sarah and Mandy make my aches and pains seem miles away. As with Eric and Victoria on Kili, the lovely Chilean couple Ruben and Andrea get engaged at the climax of the trek!!

With the 63 words in the Disney petition, and the 2nd couple to get engaged on a trek, let me briefly throw numerical spin on Wonderlust:

10–months to the day I traveled abroad. I would say I was returning to real life as my mom has advised, but the fact is I prefer the permanent delusion into which I have nicely settled.

11–countries visited (Japan, China, Tibet [sic], Nepal, India, Singapore, Indonesia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Chile, Peru). Coincidentally, this is also the number of countries in which I either ate or searched in vain for peanut butter in the last 10 months.

6–countries wiped off my original itinerary. I look to these countries for Future peanut butter. Mmm, pb of the future sounds delicious NOW.

34–Walter Payton and Bo Jackson, sure. Also, the number of books I read this past 10 months. Wind Up Bird Chronicle is the latest. Started and ended with Murakami. I would tell you all about what Tibet was like except I was busy reading. I am sure Lhasa isn’t that cool anyway.

6/5/4–number of repairs/number of cobblers/number of countries for sandal repair. Always easy and always cheap. I couldn’t bear the thought of another pair and I always went this route BECAUSE of their durability not a lack of it. Funny thing is that it will be hardest or least logical to repair them once I return to the most developed country.

<10 number of times I shaved myself. (Wonderlust: Barber Shop Shaves) I would tell you what the Taj looks like except I was getting a shave. With my eyes closed in delight.

<$1.30–sad but true, this refers to my weight now. When I saw a scale for the first time two days ago, I responded in horror with a full size pizza, a brownie, a cookie, a sundae, and two caramel filled churros. Past caramel filled churros sound delicious NOW.

3–For what it is worth, I can outeat a man 3 times my size.

As has happened so many times during this trip, I experience a quirk of timing. I hear from Bernhard to say all is well with he and Gabi, as I write this in my comfortable club level hotel room at the Sheraton in Lima. I am immeasurably pleased to hear this. And I am measurably pleased at the surrounds. The hotel room itself is my old consulting career still paying dividends. Past churros.

I think of all the people and all the places, and it breaks my heart with Joy. I am not quite sure when this journey began to…give itself to me. I became simply a detective waiting for the next clue. It unfolded with a beauty I could not have anticipated and all I had to do was flow with the wind. I am grateful for this study in Truth and Misunderstanding. (Wonderlust: Brown or White) Actually, I observe that grateful fails to be the appropriate word at a certain point. In a manner similar to how the word faith fails when one Knows. I am excited to go to Colorado today with the strong intuition towards moving there. Future pb.

Life is a poem.

PS-MP, Money Picchu, shots to come

PPS-thanks for following me this far

PPPS-this isn’t necessarily the end of the Lust…consider this the wink at the end of a franchise movie which sets up future installments

PPPPS-i will be in NYC for at least a stretch in September no matter what I decide


  1. LOVE – that you have returned, maybe to not your real life, but at least to my life!
    PAIN – at seeing how much you weigh. Stay with me for a week and I will fatten you up!
    FAITH – that I will speak to you soon!
    JOY – happy happy joy joy! Self explanatory I think.
    LIFE is what you make of it. If the past is any indicator, your future has infinite potential!

  2. P!! Loved the weight comments man – can’t wait to kick it in Sept – we have some serious food to throwdown

  3. What an incredibly inspiring journey – I have loved reading your blog. Maybe Julia Roberts can play you in the next installment of Eat, Pray, Love . . . oh wait, she weighs more than you.

    Seriously, beautiful writing, beautiful heart, beautiful experience. Thank you for sharing with us. Can’t wait to see what’s next for your wayward soul!

  4. love the medium brother
    and as always the honesty

  5. Quite simply, thank you for sharing the journey. And I would say I am so grateful for all the twists of fate that have made us siblings, but that word would be inadequate for all the joy and depth you bring to my life. Love you, always.

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