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If it’s a Sunday night and I’m blogging and the dishes are washed and the hot water heater turned off, a backpack with a startlingly small number of garments but also a down jacket and a 15 F sleeping bag jammed into the bottom, and I’ve just done a brand-labelectomy on my camera bag, well then, you know I must be leaving on a trip.

Christmas is almost upon us (Chanukah too, save me a latke, but eat the sovganiot by yourself, I can take ’em or leave ’em), and with it comes the absence of public life. After the shopping is done, and the gifties bought, people file into their homes for an intimate couple of days with families, and shuffled ex-families and soon-to-be families here in Chile. Hey, now that they’ve legalized divorce, nearly anything is possible.

And what that means to me, a Jewish (by culture, if not necessarily by vocation) foreigner is that it’s high time I got the ahem out of Dodge. Or Santiago, as the case may be. Which is why tomorrow morning in the early dawn, I will find myself with the aforementioned backpack (astonishingly light this time) turtled onto my back, waiting for the pickup to the airport. Try as I might, I could not make the trip make any sense at all by bus. I wrote and scribbled, using my storied LSAT and GMAT logic games skills to determine just how Eileen could get herself and her bike up to the north and not spend 36 hours or way too much money on a bus. And try as I might, all I came up with was the dreaded option E. None of the above.

Which is why I’m flying to Calama, the jumping-off point for San Pedro de Atacama, itself the jumping-off point for 4X4 trips across the famous Uyuni Salt Flat, which assures me a bonecrunching ride with a bunch of strangers rattling around in a car with somewhat mediocre food and a guarantee of at least a couple of flat tires. Oh! and frigid nights in basic accommodations where it’s so cold and high that nobody sleeps at all. I’m very excited. In the daytime, there will be good light, you see. Like the foodie I could never really be (due to dietary considerations and a general concern about health and fitness), I’ve become a lightie. I seek good light. and then I take my camera (which I was advised to burn by an employee the very store that sold it to me) out of my debranded backpack, and I snap. Oh! do I snap. Tripody even.

So this is my way of telling you that I’m taking my handy newlyish sewn-new-pages-into passport with my styley new Bolivian visa and a whole bunch of other documents and cards that just show how much humans love to control each other and make each other jump through hoops, and we’re going up to Bolivia. And then hopefully down to Argentina. And then back over to Chile. Should be a triangle of sorts when I’m done, and I’m hoping that my excellent new white anti-sun shirt and my giant hat and dorky skiing-style glasses conspire to make me just the most fashionable person the Bolivian high desert has ever seen. And if I can find some string, I’m bringing a kite!

It’s always good to have a gimmick, I say. What’s yours? (I know one of you has a ukelele!)

Be well.