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Becoming the Writer No One Thought I Could Ever Be - Caroline Leavitt - DreamsCo

The first time I met Caroline Leavitt was by reading her New York Times Bestselling Novel Pictures of YouHer beautiful book has been kept in a special place - in the short stack of novels that inspire me to be a better writer. Since publishing The Lake HouseI've gotten the chance to meet Caroline through an online writer's group. She's a warm, caring, and humble person who comes straight from the heart. I'm so honored that she's taken the time to write about what it took for her to pursue the dream everyone said was impossible.

I hope her words help you to find the inspiration to continue to pursue your dreams no matter how many times you're told "no." We all hear about instant success when we see someone accomplished, but so often there's a long struggle behind it. I give you the amazing Caroline Leavitt.

 

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The first word I heard, about my writing, was “no.” I was a little girl, eight-years-old and sickly with asthma, and I spent most of my time writing stories in the library while my friends were outside in the damp or the rain or the humid heat playing.  While they romped around, I imagined I was a ballerina in Spain or a doctor in Africa, or sometimes, an asthmatic little girl who was a famous writer. But when I told my mother that what I was going to be when I grew up was a writer, she shook her head. “Be a teacher,” she advised. “Or how about a nurse? You can help people that way. Stories are just a waste of time.”

Being stubborn, I didn’t listen. All though school, if I could write a story, I would. I never wrote a real book report, but instead, made up the books and then wrote reports on them, and I wasn’t discovered until my senior year of high school, when the teacher went to find the book and discovered it didn’t exist. When I had to go see my guidance counselor about college, I told her I was going to be a writer. She blinked at me. “Pardon me,” she said. “But I see no evidence that you could ever be a writer.”

I was seventeen when I began sending out my stories, packing them in those big brown self addressed stamped envelopes and sending them off to magazines. They always came back with form letters. “You’re wasting postage,” my father said, but I kept sending them out, anyway.

In college, I got into a creative writing class, one of 15 terrified kids under the scrutiny of a then famous writer. The first time he talked about my story, he held it up at the edges. “Let’s be frank,” he said. “This is totally crap.” I felt the tears streak my cheeks as he talked about how my lack of characterization, my lame plot, the deadening affect of my prose, but I didn’t leave. The next day, when I came back, he raised one brow at me. “Back again for more punishment?” he said.

“I’m here to learn.”

And learn I did. Every night, when the other kids were at parties or in the city, I was in my tiny dorm room, scratching out stories, working to make them right, sending them off, and always, always, getting those big brown envelopes back again.teenCaroline

When I graduated college, I had to have a job, but to my parents’ shock, instead of going for teaching jobs or nursing, I took low level terrible jobs so I could write. “Where’s your future?” my parents cried. I was fired from my job at an answering service, when I kept giving the emergency messages to Dr. Foot the obstetrician to Dr. Foot the podiatrist. I was fired from a job at a puzzle factory when I was too frightened of the glue press. And I was fired from my job typing because this was before computers and spell check , and I just made too many mistakes. I came home, discouraged, and when I did, there, in the mail, was a big brown self addressed stamped envelope. Disheartened, I ripped it up, scattering the pieces on the porch. I was about to walk inside when I happened to look down and then I saw it. One word.

Congratulations.

Swooping down, I frantically put all the pieces together. I had won the Redbook Young Writers Contest. Seven thousand dollars and publication.  An agent. A book deal.

“I’m finally a writer!” I told my friends.  But really, when you think about it, wasn’t I always a writer?  If you put your whole heart and soul into something each and every day, if you are on the journey, isn’t that as important as the destination? I was a writer--my dream--the first time I picked up a number 2 pencil and wrote, “once upon a time” when I was eight. And the dream’s never over. Every day now, I sit at my computer and there isn’t a moment I don’t feel lucky and blessed. Not a moment I don’t also think that the best way to make dreams come true is to never stop dreaming.ITT

 

Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You, which was one of the Best Books of 2011 from the San Francisco Chronicle, The Providence Journal, Bookmarks Magazine and Kirkus Reviews. Her new novel, Is This Tomorrow, is a May Indie Pick, and a San Francisco Chronicle Editors Choice. Visit her at www.carolineleavitt.com

When a Dream Comes True - The Lake House Makes Its Way Into The World - DreamsCo

The last two weeks have been a blur of activity. Each morning I wake to new exciting news: a good review; being chosen as one of the six best summer reads by CBS; The Paper Store choosing my book as their June Book Club event; Costco carrying my book; great first week sales; book signings; and emails from people who have read and loved the book.  ReadingOnBeach Everyone keeps asking me what it feels like, but I'm not certain how to respond. When you've wanted something since you were a little girl and suddenly it's happening the emotions are overwhelming: excitement, pure joy, and of course the ever present fear that I"m not doing enough or I won't be enough in the end. (Dang that pesky feeling!)

The strange part is that there's also the touch of fame. People want their pictures taken with me. They smile and stare at me telling me that they can't wait to tell their friends that they've met me. The book is taking on a life of its own as people tweet and repost and rave, while others make comments that the book has scenes that are too "steamy" for comfort. (Hey, I write about life, and sex is part of life. It's not romance, but men and women share intimacy and I guess true love scenes that aren't bodice ripping crazy or only hinted upon haven't made their way to stories.)

Suddenly there's a video of me talking about, The Lake House, and articles written by journalist. My private world, hidden behind a blog that's completely controlled, is no longer the only place to find information on me. And though this moment is one of the greatest in my life it's also brought out the insecurities.

As a young woman I lived through my insecurities. When I lost enough weight and exercised away my curves then I could go after my dreams. If I acted in a way so that everyone liked me, then I was acceptable to society. More than not, I hid from the world.

Going after my biggest dreams in life, following the path of this list, caused me to come out from behind the shadows. I became confident in who I am and I stopped making excuses for my perceived flaws. Then the night the video was released, it all came rushing back. I couldn't look at it for fear that the person I saw in the mirror didn't live up to the one on the camera. Reviews were something I tried to hide from in case they said something that would hurt.

The Lake House Video

I know it's all quite silly. I know it's time to shake it off, be proud of all that I've accomplished and say, "This is what I've done, this is who I am, and whatever anyone says, well it doesn't matter." The great part of becoming an author is that I get to be surrounded by incredible female authors and it turns out these emotions I'm having - well they're common even amongst the most successful.

So if you're putting off going after your dreams until the perfect moment when no one will be able to find your perceived flaws - there's never going to be a time. The good thing, no one else will notice those ideas of weakness you see. They may view you through their perceived flaws but for the most part they'll see you as someone who took a risk and they'll remember the dreams they wish they could make come true.

 

How to Throw a Book Launch Party - Or The Best Night of My Life - DreamsCo

In February of 2013 I was returning from South America and I found myself watching the "Sex in The City" episode where Carrie has her book launch. Done in Hollywood style, the party was held in a swanky two-story ballroom with all the top socialites from New York City. The major papers were in attendance taking her photo and getting quotes. When I reached New York City the next day and met with my fabulous publicist at Gallery Book/ Simon & Schuster we laughed about the party from television. "No one does it like that unless they're already famous," Jean Anne Rose said.

Well on May 10th I held my party, and it might not have been in a prestigious hotel in a big city with people dressed in cocktail dresses, but I think it was better.

Having a book launch party has been a dream since I was little, but I couldn't see myself being comfortable having a reading and a signing with all eyes on me the whole night. Instead, I wanted a party that brought together all forms of artistry. I had no idea how I was going to accomplish it, but heck, I haven't known how I was going to complete any of my dreams before I started. Like everything else on my list, this night came together in a miraculous way. Everyone I asked to participate came with enthusiasm sharing their talents in a way that had the crowd excited.IMG_9721

In my last blog, I spoke about worrying that no one would come to the party. When the doors opened at Gallery 21Ten on K St. in Sacramento, CA there was a crowd inside and out. I looked up completely amazed as people stood in line to buy books, savored the wonderful wineries: Bob Hoffman from Mountain Ranch Winery; Cio Perez from Perez Vineyards, Napa; and Alex Sotello Wines, Napa. These people brought their lovely, bold, smooth wines just to support me in my endeavor. Capital City Catering, Sacramento asked at the last minute to help out and they brought a beautiful build-your-own pasta bar and served their food in champagne glasses. The chocolate truffle cake from Ettores Cafe weighed twenty-five pounds and people devoured its decadence. Party Divas catering in Napa circulated trays of stuffed mushrooms, bruschetta, and mini tortilla bowls and finished the night with bite-sized strawberry shortcakes.IMG_9700 963843_309958962470985_1611349450_o

By 7:30 Jerry Kennedy of the Powder Keg of Awesome began mc'ing and kept the night of entertainment rolling. Pam Metzger, a local actress, read my first chapter aloud to a huge crowd. The Green Valley Theater company acted out three scenes from my book before The Comedy Spot's Bro Time came up. I gave the two talented comedians three scenes from my book and they had the crowd laughing hysterically. While waiting for the grand finale guests took their turns at the mike to read poems they'd created for a poetry contest Sunni Harley from The Princess Christian Book Club had created and through the crowds cheers Sunni awarded $100. And then Mike Del Campo's Dance Studios presented Salsa Riquisma, an incredible salsa team, and they took over the gallery in a flash of red, white, and black lighting up the room. People were cheering and saying over and over, "How can I learn to do that?"949589_388272667956789_2007616775_o 948653_388272704623452_1378969912_o

Amidst all the fun I was signing books with a line that never ended. Carol Dalton's beautiful art work graced the walls of the gallery creating a beautiful ambience. Guests were able to wander through the Art Complex Co-Op weaving in and out of beautiful rooms where artists displayed their masterpieces. Jimmy Joy Jewels had me decked out in stunning jewelry for the evening and I felt like a movie star at the Oscars. Aaron Guzman, from Unique Photography, who at the last minute saved the party with his sound system, snapped pictures capturing the memories I might forget in the whirlwind, while my friend Lisa Randall from Dynasty Video Productions made certain I'd get to see all of the acts at a later date when I wasn't signing books.466398_10200848602194890_1868544210_o

Throughout the night the soulful voice of Stevie Nader could be heard as he played guitar and sang. I'd first heard Stevie play at a restaurant, and though he'd never met me before this night, he came and played intermittently for over an hour bringing his incredible Jack Johnson-like sound to the party. Record companies you really need to sign him!IMG_9670

When I finally stood in front of the large crowd it was hard not to have tears in my eyes. All the hard work of writing this novel and bringing it to publication was being celebrated in a way that I almost couldn't comprehend because it was so fantastic. These people in front of me, some close friends, others strangers before this night, had gathered to celebrate my story. I realized that "Sex in The City's" launch party had nothing on mine. This night wasn't about opulence and egos. It was about the power of community and friendship - and that's what THE LAKE HOUSE is all about.

Thank you to everyone who helped to make this dream bigger than I could've imagined. You'll be in my heart forever and I'm so touched by what all of you did! I want to write another book just so I can bring all that talent back to that beautiful room. You amaze me!

Photos below are from Aaron Guzman: Uniquephotography.netIMG_9886 IMG_9865 IMG_9854 IMG_9852 IMG_9842 IMG_9840 IMG_9813 IMG_9765 IMG_9741 IMG_9694 IMG_9790

Does The Seventh Grade Ever End? - DreamsCo

Next week my book finally hits the stores. I'm certain many people will be excited not only because they get to finally read it, but because I'll stop talking about it. I've been going through a really strange emotion; I'm throwing a launch party and I keep wondering if anyone will come. Friends are excited, I've gotten a great response from the community, but all I can think about is being a young kid and inviting people to my party, but only a few showing up. It wasn't because I didn't have friends; many people just had excuses: they didn't feel well; they had too much homework; another girl invited them to do something better.

Whenever I see other authors getting book tours or going to book fairs I feel like I'm on the outside of a social clique and wasn't invited even though I have my own events and I'm even a keynote at a major writer's conference.

The adult me knows this is stupid. My books are going to be in airports, Walmart, Sam's Club, independent booksellers, and gift shops. Everyone's raving about the story and the cover. I did my first reading at a winery with snow-capped mountains and vineyards as my backdrop. The women were mesmerized as I read and they wanted to go home and read the book that night. I have every reason to be excited and celebrate, but still this little voice of doubt won't be quiet.

I've said for many years when I hear gossip or drama that the seventh grade never ends. That's the year when girls became the meanest and social cliques the cruelest. What I'm realizing is that maybe there's actually a part of us in our adulthood that views our lives through this age. So if we were the popular girl always leading the crowd we view life as though it belongs to us. But if we were timid, a little shy,  or even bullied this twelve-year-old part lingers somewhere telling us that we're going to be left out, we can't have our dreams. Who are we to think that we can do something great?

It's said that those born into money will never have a hard time believing that they deserve to be rich, but those whose parents struggled will always fight with the notion of poverty or financial hardship even when they become wealthy.

I wonder if these twelve-year-olds inside aren't the biggest reason why so many people never reach for their dreams. If we could silence these childish concerns what we could accomplish?

The one thing I've learned is to ignore the fear and the anxiety and fight to move forward. Someday the inner voice will silence or maybe it won't.

My launch party has come together in a miraculous way. Friends are showing up with wine, food, and entertainment. Gallery 2110 in Sacramento is sponsoring the space and I'm throwing the biggest party I've ever attended. So seventh grade, I'm done with you, at least for now.

Returning to Ballet in Your Fifties Dream Come True - DreamsCo

I'm happy to introduce a new phase to 101 Dreams Come True - sharing other people's stories of completing items on their life-lists. Every other Thursday I'll be featuring people who have dared to go after their dreams. I would love to hear your stories and share them with the world so please contact me. I'm proud to introduce you to an amazing woman Yona McDonough who not only writes fiction and has completed many novels and children's books, but also returned to ballet after years of leaving behind her dream of becoming a ballerina. I hope you find her story as inspirational as I have. Remember you're never to old to follow your dreams. photo

 

Once upon a time, I was part of a small army. The army was not made of soldiers, it was more like a children’s crusade, a throng of aspiring young ballet dancers that marched up and down New York City’s long avenues—Broadway, Seventh, Eighth—that were dotted, in those years, with so many studios.  The School of American Ballet, feeder for the New York City Ballet, was the most famous, but there were others too and it was at John Barker’s studio on West 56th Street that I took classes six days a week for most of my high school life.

Weekdays, class was from 4:30 to 6:00; Saturdays, it was at 11:00 a.m.   The studio itself was unremarkable: ruined wooden floor, bleached and pocked by the amber nuggets of rosin ground into its surface, long barres that lined three of the walls and full-length mirrors that lined the fourth. We spent about forty-five minutes at one of those barres, perfecting a series of exercises that had been born in the court of France and refined in the glistening winters of Imperial Russia.  Pliés, tendus, and  rond du jambs,  all executed to the strains of Chopin. The barre was followed by work in the center: an adagio, and petit allegro. Then there were the big jumps, like grand jetés, and some point work, which allowed us the giddy sensation of rising up on our toes, defying nature, gravity, and even, for a moment, mortality itself.  Finally, there was the obligatory reverence, in which we curtseyed to our supremely difficult and demanding teacher.

After that we were free—until the next day, when the ritual began all over again. For it was a ritual, and, as such, had its sacred preparations.  The brushing and winding of our hair into the tight bun, the sewing of ribbons on our ballet shoes, the donning of the requisite pink tights and black leotards were acts performed with both sanctity and love.

The studying of ballet creates its own kind of religious order, and the girls who do it are akin to eager novitiates, fired by their all consuming faith and their utter willingness to undergo daily mortification of the flesh. And as with religion, the ballet hierarchy decreed that there was an established scheme of things and that a young dancer could have a secure and known place within it.photo

When class was over, I once more joined the swarm of girls with turned-out walks and bony shoulder blades, girls who paraded down the street wearing the marks of their collective discipline: the buns, still wound painfully tight, the big, punishing bags weighed down with their heavy loads. We knew we were of a different tribe—recognizable and unique—and it filled us with pride. We were purified by our discipline, etherealized by our shining goal.

I loved being part of this elite. High school was a vague scrim; I had few friends, and no time for team sports (my brief experience of field hockey was like a tour in hell) dances, parties and the like. Instead, I fraternized with the other dance students; my best friend in those years was a girl who lived in the Bronx, the other end of New York, and went to a different school.  But joined by the blood ritual of our shared dance experience, she was my soul mate, my sister under the skin.

Still, my own vision of a future in dance was somewhat fuzzy. I knew my strengths: I was musical, I had a strong jump and my point work was crisp. But I could not turn worth a damn, and I lacked both extension and a certain vital ferocity of attack.  I was content to live in the daily-ness of it all—that was for the moment sufficient.

Yet after years of single-minded study, I abandoned the ranks of the ballet girls quite abruptly.  No one was more surprised by this turn of events than I was. It happened like this: after twenty-four years of marriage, my father left my mother for another woman. Worse—much worse—was that I had changed, overnight it seemed, from a girl who continually found favor in her father’s adoring eyes to a young woman who would never find it again.

The initial shock of his desertion was like a tidal wave; I gasped and sputtered in the cold shock and grief of it.   I impulsively decided that I could not tolerate one more day in the difficult and often abusive presence of Mr. Barker, and wrote him a letter to tell him I would not be coming to class any more. I wept all the way to the mailbox, but I did not turn back.  I put that life behind me, and focused instead on getting into college—I was a senior in high school at the time—and carving out a new identity for myself.

In retrospect, it seems to me that by wrenching myself away from something I had loved so deeply, I was both inflicting a kind of self-punishment as well as unconsciously imitating my father’s rejecting behavior. But at the time, I knew only that dancing belonged to the past, and the past was a country from which I desperately longed to escape.

For many years, I succeeded.  I locked the ballet girl I once was in a closet and never let her out.  I cultivated another self—one who attended college and graduate school, held jobs, went on dates and kissed scads of frogs before stumbling on a prince.  I found a vocation—writer—and turned it into a deeply gratifying career.  I married (the aforementioned prince), had children, bought a house in Brooklyn. But all that time, the ballet girl remained—mute, neglected and sad.  I could not afford to let her out; her presence was too painful to me, too much a reminder of who I had been and what, despite everything I now had, I had lost.

But even though she was in serious lockdown, this ballet girl grew restive and balked at her exile.  She did not want to be locked away; she demanded to be acknowledged.  Alarmingly, she was even able to crack the door a little bit; I could hear her voice and even though I still could not bring myself to let her out, I began to listen to it.

She told me a story about a ferocious young ballerina named Ginny Valentine and soon Ginny’s story became part of The Four Temperaments, a novel I began writing in the late 1990s.  In order to complete this book, I needed to start attending ballet performances again; I had not seen live dance in years.  So I returned to the theaters where I had once been a regular: City Center, the New York State Theater, and the Metropolitan Opera House. Most evenings, my eyes filled with tears as soon as the curtain rose.

The Four Temperaments turned out to be a waiting vessel; into it, I could pour so much of what I thought, felt and remembered from those years. It also was a kind of joyful revision of the past: my character succeeded as a dancer in a way that I had not.  It was a both a gift and privilege to write it and when it was published in 2002, I felt a kind of peace—even a sense of redemption—that went bone deep.4TSCOVER

Although the ballet girl was no longer locked away, I was not on the most intimate of terms with her; I still felt the need to keep her at some remove. But when I hit fifty, something shifted; I could feel the tectonic plates of self rumbling and rearranging inside. And even though I could not be that ballet girl ever again, I decided that for the first time in more than thirty years, I wanted to put on a pair of ballet shoes and resume my place in front of the mirror.

Yet I was not entirely ready to confront the “now,” and find it so sadly wanting when compared with the “then.” I had to live with the idea for a while, hoarding it like a delectable bit of candy that I had stolen: delicious, yet laced with both danger and shame.  Desire turned out to be stronger than fear, and on a bright September morning a few years ago, I showed up for a ballet class with four other women—all middle-aged moms like myself, nary a swan among us. My hair was short; no bun required. And the pink and black combo I remembered seemed to have gone the way of rotary dial, so my yoga pants and white T shirt fit right in, as did my black ballet slippers.photo

I was nervous after a hiatus of more than three decades.  But I was in some deeper way ready too, for I realized, if not now, when? Or more aptly, if not now, never.  At first, I was saddened by how much my body had forgotten: feet that no longer would point in a high clear arch, the arabesque that wobbled and quivered when I tried to hold it.  But I kept on, week after week, and was cautiously heartened by how much my mind had retained.  I still knew the names of all the steps. I remembered how to hold my head and my arms, to turn toward the barre, and not away from it, after the completion of an exercise.  And the joy I took in those small accomplishments outweighed the sorrow engendered by the losses.

True, I could no more return to the time I had been young and in full possession of whatever physical gifts I possessed, any more than I could soften my father’s implacable heart and bask in his love once again.  But I no longer had to banish the ballet girl to the closet or even keep her safely across the room. Instead, I could welcome her into my life, let her take me by the hand, and lead me take her hand and let her lead me back to the barre.  Back, in some true and everlasting sense, home.

I have been taking ballet classes since that September day, and with each class, I feel as if I am slipping, like Alice through the looking glass, past a membrane that is not impervious but gauze-like and permeable.  Behind it is the realm of girlhood. I no longer have that girl’s lithe, unmarked body, nor her hopeful innocence; what I have instead are the talismans of youth that I can see and touch, and the graceful geometry of the exercises and steps, precious in their eternal familiarity, humbling in their eternal novelty.  And I can immerse myself again in the loving austerity of the rigorous, yet generous discipline that once shaped and governed my days.

For more information on Yona McDonough or her books click the images below.WeddingInGreatNeckhighres4TSCOVER

 Click Here Buy the Book

 To Find Out More about Yona go to her website : www.yonazeldismcdonough.com

Knocking Ourselves Down Instead of Building Ourselves Up - DreamsCo

Today is a rather glorious day for me. My book, THE LAKE HOUSE, that's hitting the shelves in three weeks, arrived on my doorstep. It was an incredible moment.IMG_0145 Last week I was near tears, alright if I'm honest in tears, worried about the fate of my novel. I was also stressed about stepping out onto the ice at the National Adult Figure Skating competition for fear of falling on my face in front of people. I felt like everything was falling apart, and I thought about canceling my trip and hiding under the blankets.

Then I competed and for two minutes ten seconds I let it all go and I flew across the ice. My skating felt wonderful and everyone told me that I was beaming to the rafters. I took the bronze medal out of fifteen solid skaters.

The next day I had marketing meetings with Gallery Books / Simon & Schuster and found out all the incredible work that had been done behind the scenes. By the time I took the ice on Friday night for my second number I was beyond emotional as I realized that all the years I spent hoping, dreaming, praying, and keeping my vision alive had really paid off. The emotions came harder as I skated to the song, "On My Own" and the judges obviously felt it because they awarded me the silver medal

It's strange how we believe the worst is going to happen. We fear all the things that could go wrong that we don't even wish to take the leap. It's a weird part of human nature - the fear of imperfection or failure will keep us knocking ourselves down and hiding from our biggest dreams.

Last night I saw Dove's Youtube video "Sketches." It had women sit in a chair behind a curtain and describe themselves to a forensic artist. Then the artist sketched another photo of the same woman using a strangers description who had seen the person very briefly. Ultimately, the description from the stranger was more beautiful and true to life. Watch the video.

What if we saw ourselves not through our perceived flaws and fears, but through the beauty of who we really are? What more could we accomplish in life and how much happier would we be?

It's not easy to walk past fear or old beliefs: you're not good enough; no one in your family has done it so why should you be able to; I'm too fat; too ugly; I hate this about myself; I'll make a fool out of myself; I might fail. What if we turned that into: I'm grateful for everything I am; I'm going to enjoy this moment and have fun no matter the outcome; I'm going to go for everything I can because if I don't there's no chance; I believe in me and it doesn't matter what other people think.

Imagine what your life could be if you believed in you. That's what I did and it wasn't easy, but wow was it worth it!

Getting to Futaleufu, Chile - DreamsCo

Out of all the travel on my list of 101 Dreams Come True, Futaleufu, Patagonia Chile was the number one destination I wanted to see. Tucked in the Andes close to the Argentine border, the entire town can be walked in ten minutes. There's no gas station, one bank that only takes American Express, and only one hotel and a few pousadas. So why did I want to explore this area? As an eternal white water junkie, I'd heard of the pristine aqua river with huge class V rapids. But whenever I looked into going to this region the cost for one week with plane tickets was over $6000. For almost ten years, I would look at the trip, drool over the pictures and then realize it just wasn't feasible.

When I decided to travel through S. America my budget for two months was a little over $8,000 so a tour company was out of the question. There was little on the internet on how to get to the area and places to stay were expensive unless I was willing to stay in small youth hostels in shared rooms.

After hours of research, I finally found a rafting company called Patagonia Elements that did day trips instead of an organized tour. Through email I learned how to get to the region by bus, taxi, foot, and a car picking me up on the other side of a border crossing. They offered a room for rent in their friend's home for $20.00 per night and my dream of seeing Futaleufu and rafting the rapids began to take form.

I arrived in Bariloche (one of the gateways to Futaleufu if you fly into Buenos Aires, Argentina)  the week before and made a reservation for a bus the following week to Esquel. Without the ability to speak Spanish I had my concerns. My adrenaline was running high the day I left the safety of my resort. I sat in my seat on the panoramic double-decker bus and began my five hour drive.

Mountains and lakes spread out before me as we traveled through Argentina. A few hours into the trip, through my usual miming and Pictionary I asked the bus drivers to let me know when we reached Esquel since this bus was taking a twenty-four hour drive all the way to the end of the earth in El Calafate and I didn't want to go that far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I arrived in Esquel without any problems and missed my connecting bus to Trevelin by ten minutes because I thought I had to buy a ticket before getting on the bus. But no problem, there would be another in half an hour.

Next stop Trevelin, Argentina where I would have to call for a taxi cab and make an international call to Chile to tell the people from Patagonia Elements when I would arrive at the Chilean border. Trevellin was too small to have a bus station and when the driver got off the bus, grabbed my luggage, and motioned for me to get off, I was rather nervous. There was one park, a few restaurants, and he pointed me to a house and left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What could I do? I walked to the house, realized it was the tourist help center. Once again, I played charades, pointed to maps, and handed over my international calling card. The man and his wife were very sweet and they made phone calls with concerned looks on their faces. At this point I had learned enough Spanish to hold a five minute conversation with their four-year-old daughter. They pointed to the clock, explained what I thought would be a two-hour wait and then took my luggage into the back of their home.

Without anything to do, I went to lunch, got some ice cream, and hoped that I was on the right track. Two hours later my luggage was out in front of the house, a beat-up Nissan that had a cracked windshield and wreaked of gasoline was waiting for me. There was no taxi sign and the man didn't speak English, but what could I do. I got in, and we drove into no-man's land on a rocky back road through a mountain pass along a beautiful aqua river.

An hour passes, I hadn't been robbed, left on the side of the road, nor has the car broken down. But now I'm being left at the border crossing. The road is not only dirt, but rocky and I have two rolling suitcases and I need to walk half a mile to the other side of Argentina to Chile. I start laughing at my predicament. There's no way I'm going to be able to drag these bags down the road.

Then two men show up in a station wagon. They go inside the border control, get their passports stamped, come out, load my bags into their car and tell me to get in with hand gestures. Well what the heck? They can only go as far as the border.

I got out at the Chilean border, they helped me with my customs forms, asked in Charades (my new found language) if I wanted a ride into town? I said, "No, I have a ride." and then they left. My ride didn't show up for another half hour but five families offered me rides.

But this is Chile in Patagonia - warm, friendly, helpful, and giving. So nine hours after my departure from Argentina I arrived in Futaleufu, where the adventure really began. But you'll have to read the next blog for that story.