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License to Ill

Friends,

Back in March of 2011 I went on what was to be my first and last jaunt across the pond in the “pre-9/11 world.”  It was a school trip to Italy and France (not in that order) and I was in grade eleven.  Like most (all?) school trips, a high premium was placed on student safety, and beyond an appropriate number of chaperones, what this translated to on the back end were room checks to curb fraternization, prohibitions on students buying alcohol (outside of beer or wine at mealtimes) and naturally, prohibitions on drug use.

Well, being forced to spend the better part of their childhoods indoors, confined to a desk and having to ask to go to the bathroom, it should come as no surprise that students are second only to prisoners when it comes to resourcefulness in flouting the rules.  This defiance was encouraged by the fact that the chaperones were mostly cool, recognizing that the trip was supposed to be fun, and their attempts to transplant Canadian high school rules to a bunch of young people in another continent were gestural.

That said, reinforced habits and the fear of punishment can be powerful deterrents as they were to me and the groups of fellow squares I hung out with throughout the trip.

IMG_4512L to R: Mike, Metro, Horesman, Scott and Me

We weren’t bad kids; we were nerds.  We were a low-priority when it came to students who should be supervised.  This became very clear to me on the second day of the trip when we were approached by my French teacher, Mr. Harper.  He told us that he had come by our room at lights-out the night before to make sure we were in bed and knocked a few times.  Figuring that we were just jet-lagged and in a deep sleep, he gave us the benefit of the doubt and went on with his room checks.  To give you a glimpse of just how goody-goody we were, he wasn’t even mad when he explained this to us but we still apologized and assured him we would be more attentive next time.

So on the trip went with us mostly staying in our lanes, taking pictures of the sights and removing our hats when entering cathedrals. However, a peculiar change began to happen.  As we observed all of the rule-breaking going on around us and the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” attitude of the chaperones, we started to act out in our own measured way.

IMG_4511Here is us sitting on the base of a column in St. Peter’s Basilica when we were explicitly told not to.

IMG_4515
Here is me jumping into an empty fountain at Versailles and humping one of the statues.

IMG_4513
And here is me grabbing my junk in Rome.
I am a bad motherfucker, am I not?

Intoxicated with the thrill of being a rebel and wanting some token artifact as a memento of my flirtations with a life of crime, my degeneracy reached its apex in Rome on (fittingly) the Ides of March. Visiting the Coliseum I decided to make my move, climbing some decrepit wall while security was out of sight and posing for a picture while testing furiously for loose bricks which I could abscond with.

IMG_4514
The bastard love-child of Lara Croft and Indiana Jones clad in baggy dungarees.

JACKPOT!

I wiggled one such brick free and jumped down like the future traceur I would become years later.  I walked out of the coliseum as fast as I could, looking over my shoulder the whole time and feeling my heart furiously dry-humping my rib-cage.  I remembered one chick even asked me while I was up there if there was any bricks I could hand to her.  Bitch Please. I felt like that gangster in Training Day who, when Denzel demands someone shoot Ethan Hawke, places a .38 on the ground in front of him and is like,

got
You got us twisted, homie; you gotta put your own work in around here.

After we had safely smuggled the brick out in someone’s cargo shorts pocket, me and the fellowship of the brick stood in a circle marveling at its plainness and lack of any special defining features.

“Guys, this is a billionth of the Coliseum we’re holding right here,” I said.

Then my long-time friend, Michael chimed in, “Yeah, but its OUR billionth.”

Yes it was.  Upon returning to Canada I took a hammer and chisel and broke each of my co-conspirators off a chip of the brick and hopefully those chips still serve as a reminder of the day we hit back against a system and took what was ours.

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Let’s re-cap.

Here are the transgressions I didn’t commit that others on the trip did and the potential punishments they held:

Hooking up with other students: Legal but might have gotten suspended or sent home early or both
Buying Booze: Same
Buying/Using/Possessing Marijuana:

ille
Note: These are current for 2013

Now here’s what I did:

Looting Artefacts from Roman Antiquity: “…those caught were left ‘highly embarrassed’ but were not arrested, instead they were cautioned and allowed to return home and their ancient souvenirs returned to Rome council…” -From Mail Online, 24 June 2012

I willingly put myself in a position where I could have been highly embarrassed and allowed to return home.  How gangster is that?

****

I think the moral I was trying to get across initially was that a reputation for being a goody-two-shoes is a license to be a badass, but when I found out how casually my particular offense is actually treated by the Carabinieri, it kinda changed the way I viewed my own act of flagrant rebellion.  While that original moral still stands true, I think a more apt lesson to be taken from my pilfering of precious pebbles is that sometimes you gotta break the rules for good stories and souvenirs.

It’s probably why some of my best travel stories have to do with running from the police, surfing with sharks and trespassing.

To put it in an acronym, W.W.D.Q.D.?

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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…Where Credit is Due

My Friends,
   I’m back home in Canada after circling the globe over the past 107 days.  It was in many ways not the trip I was expecting but perhaps for that exact reason it was also exactly the trip I was expecting.  For you see I was looking for adventure, something which is eminently un-plannable, and adventure is what I got.
   However, the success of this venture rested on more than just my own overtures toward worldliness and Quixotic affectations.  Rather, I was helped at almost every step by others; some I knew beforehand, most I did not.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who made my trip not only what it was, but possible in the first place.
   So, Thank-You…

To my friend Tommy and my brother Adam for helping me try to get financial assistance for the trip.  It may not have been successful but it was a lot of fun to hang out and make videos.

To Steve and Lynn from modrobes for the clothing you provided and the re-supply mid-expedition.

To Mark from Oakley U.S.A. for your generosity.

To Maria, Victor and Wilson, the first three people who showed me any kind of goodwill in my trip but whose contact information I lost in the robbery.  Thank-you so much and I will keep attempting to find you guys on Facebook.

To my parents for all of their help after I got robbed.  Thank-you for booking my flight back to Lisbon, scrounging through my boxes in the basement to find pieces of documentation so I could procure a new passport and making sure replacement cards, documents and gear made it out to me as quickly as possible.

To the staff of TAP Airlines in Funchal Airport for giving me money to buy lunch when I had lost everything.

To the flight attendants on my TAP flight from Funchal to Lisbon for giving me all the food I wanted after learning I got robbed.

To Bev and Darryn Cross, who saw to it that I had a hotel to stay in upon my arrival in Lisbon.

To Eneida and Gisella at the Canadian Embassy in Lisbon.  Thank you for all of the free calls and the speed with which you helped me out.

To Antonio, Antonio & Penelope for making my stay in Lisbon better than it could have been given the shitty time I was having.

To Vasil & Nadia for letting me camp in their garage during my last night in Portugal.

To “Belgian Teacher,” Greg & Maria, “German Couple,” Samuel, Jose, Sergei & Andrej & Dimitri, Bianca, “Hungary Dude” & “German Girl,” Therese & Stefano & Hannah, “Granada Dude,” “Guadix Family,” “Lorca Dude,” Juan & his Dad, Paul & Sonja, Andrew & Laura, Antonio, Julius, Maria Jose, Xavien, Keira & Ali, Claudia, Rene, Hugo, Tomas & Sandra, Moroccan guy who may or may not have wanted to rob me, “Gay Michele,” Dominique, Miro, Benoit, “Fronk”/Franc, Mohmed & Kh____ (x2), Simon, Gwen, Claudio, Nasir(?), Orsun(?), “Gas Station Patron,” “Nameless Dude,” “Old Dude,” Erol, Veysel, Ali, Ibrahim, Mehmet & Besir, _____ & Ramazan, “Some Trucker,” “Mini-Bus Full of Dudes,” “Big Bus Full of Dudes,” “Turkish Family,” “____ From Antakya,” “_____ & ______ From Antakya,” “Family in a Pick-Up Truck,” “German/Turkish Couple,” Hasan & Usan, _____, Mustafa & _____, The Syrian Secret-Service/Cab-Drivers, Jima, and finally Havid & Family.  Thank-you for picking me up instead of just speeding by.

To Ricky, who came out of left field to offer me his house to crash at in Rota, Spain.  Your generosity was overwhelming.

To Annelies & Annejet, who gave me sunscreen, a pink towel and would have given me a ride to Malaga but I slept in like a dunce.

To Toby, who came back and picked me up from McDonald’s just like he said he would.

To the Collet family who picked me up and let me stay in their beautiful home.  If you have any plans to visit the south of France you should definitely consider a stay in one of their residences: http://www.bormeslesmimosas.com/locationscoulomb/.

To Neil, who showed me around San Remo, bought me a bus ticket, and warned me about just how corrupt Italy was on arrival.

My cousin Steven and his family in Legnano, Italy.  Thank-you for your hospitality, helping me deal with lazy Italian officials, and the delicious food which fattened me up for the cold weather which laid before me.
To Imad and Lina who made me feel at home in Beirut, took me around the city and included me in their Christmas-tree decorating.

To the proprietors of the cafe in the Suez bus station for letting me crash in the back-room.

To Jima, who picked me up, took me into his home and broke bread with me during my last night in Egypt.

To Brian for for offering his flat in Zanzibar which I never made it to.

To Robert for sharing his campfire in Ein Gedi.

To Amina & Gulmyra, my Kazakh “aunts” who forced me to eat with them on the train and led me to the bus station in Almaty.

To “Opie,” who made my welfare the highest priority in his life.

To the Chongqing Police Force for allowing me to use your computers and inviting me to share your Christmas dinner.
To Erich and Serena, for inviting me into your home and the delicious perma-cultured eggs.

To everyone I met who posted pics on my Facebook.  Thank-you so much for enabling me to have photographic reminders even after the loss of my camera.

To my regiment and my friends back home.  Thank-you for being there if I needed something taken care of.

To all my siblings who were supportive of me through the duration of my time away.

To my sister Tanya who posted entries for me while I was in China and unable to access anything but hotmail.

And finally, to my beautiful woman, Chelsea.  Thank-you for not making me feel bad about leaving and for encouraging me in all my goals.

Nobody makes it through this life on their own and even when I felt most alone, I knew I wasn’t.


Oh the song of the future has been sung
All the battles have been won
On the mountaintops we stand
All the world at our command
                      -Gordon Lightfoot

Stay Thirsty,
Andre Guantanamo

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Make a Little Somethìn out of Nothin (sorry forrr the typos)

My Friends,
   Tragedy has struck.  While sleeping on the beach on Madeira Island on Sunday night, some (likely mustachioed) rake absconded with my backpack as I slept a little too deeply beside it.  I woke up in shock at its absence and spent the better part of the morning and afternoon with the Machico police, getting my visa cancelled and arranging emergency money.  I spoke with my parents as well and arranged for them to book me a flight back to mainland.   I had everything in that  backpack: money, wallet, passport, shoes, clothes, camp gearr, noteebooks, compass etc..   All in, there was about $2000 worth of backpacking kiit that I had acquired over the last five years.

                                                             “And now its all gone.”
 Obviously, this theft, especiially so early on, has been a serious blow to my confidence in  my ability to complete this undertaking as planned.  Sadly, I think we all know what  this means: I must noww do this trip in  hadcore mode.
   Let me explain: yesterday, in spite of the theft and the hunger, and the hoours spent with police, i managed to hold it together betterr than i would have expected.  However, when the saleslady forr TAP airline gave me 10 euros for food I broke down and cried.   More tears came when the flight attendats, learning of my circumstance gave me all food and cookies i wanted on the plane ride to Lisbon.  In spite of getting robbed by one strrrray douche, many people are still so good and helpful and itts them who i typiccally have the pleasure of running into.  As well, somewhere in all of this crying I realized that what i was upset abbout was not the loss of my gear; its just stuff that is eminently replaceable.  I was crrying because having initially decided to go home i felt i had failed and was going to miss my window of opportunity in life for this undertaking.  That thought depressed me more than any other.
    Also, drunk off Port wine on myfirst night in the country i wrote in my notebook something alongthe lines of how CCanadians arre the strrongest, most rrobust (sorrry this keyboarrd sucks) people on the  planet and that i wasnt going to let any nation get the best of me.  Well, Hemingwwaay said that “you  should always do sober whatyou said youd do drunk, (that way  you learn to keep your fool mouth  shut)”.  I  subscrribe to this point of view and its pretty much why iw went to afghanistan and australia lol. 
  So heres  what i was left with afterr the theft: desert camo cargo pants, eucalyptex shirrt long sleeve, eucalyptex bandana, flip  flops, spandex underrwear, petzl headlamp, 2x nalgene bottles, toque, sleeping rrroll, belt, wwatch.  I have since augmented that with a new lighter duty backpacck, which should be adequate for my new lighter load. 
  Herre is a small list of some items lost that couldneverr be rreplaced: my rrregimental flag, my  kabar knofe i ccarrrried on  all of my afghanistan patrols, my  rrhyme book (sorrrry shane, the album might be delayed) and of courrse my two pipes, both of which werre given to me by fatherr.  The loss of these saddens me morre than anything.

   Of ccourse, i  aalso lost my copy of Don Quixote but his lessons came thrrough in  my time of sadness: He and Sanccho  have been rrrobbedd sevveral times so  far (and worse) and he keeps on keepin on.  Setbaccks are parrt of adventure and i could not claim to be  any kind of adventurer if I turrned and went home att  the first impediment.  One day I will  laugh at this setback and hopefully i can offerr some futue  traveller calm rrreassurance that as long as youree alive you are ok (especially ifyou have a lovving family as a supporrt base).  Basically, the worrld fucked me so Im going to fuck it back.
   I realize ihavent said much regarrding the time between my lst entry and the theft.  RRest  assured oll make some point forrm notes about the food, tthe sights and even  an errrant nipple when i get to a keyboard that  isnt like fucking lego.
Remember: “The best way out is through” -Courage Wolf
Stay Thirsty
-Andre Guantanamo

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