Toto – This Is Definitely Not Kansas

14 October 2017

My heart is broken. I’m feeling pretty good about it.

FullSizeRender 8 I think the best lessons in life are those accompanied by some level of suffering. I’m not a psychological masochist, though I pretend to be from time to time, I just recognize the need within myself to be hit over the head with new information when that information challenges my current life perspective. The older I get, the harder I need to be hit. I think this is because as we mature, and level-up our life experience, we grow new layers of protective exo-skin made out of bubble wrap. A little extra padding to slow us down, keep us mentally comfortable, and provide us with protective vision distortion. The bigger lessons not only penetrate my outer defenses, they obliterate them, leaving me feeling raw and vulnerable but also with eyes, mind, and heart wide open to the world around me.

This is my 11th day in Ecuador. Every day I go out to experience the world. This world is not mine. It feels like the universe next door. There is a familiarity here that is disorienting because hardly anything here is what I expect it to be. It is this difference that has captured my curiosity. There has been something nipping at the back of brain since I arrived and today, unable to chew through my layers of bubble wrap, the nipping manifest itself as a real-life dog.

Image of Cascada Taxopamba

Cascada Taxopamba


Today I hiked up to a magnificent waterfall with Sasha. It’s a beautiful spot tucked away between some cow pastures where you wouldn’t think to look. I’m impressed that Sasha found this remote and obscure location with so little to go on. On the way here, a small, very cute dog started following us. Dogs are everywhere here. Some belong to people, some belong to the streets. We passed several of both during this trek including a particularly beautiful pit bull lounging in the yard of a house perched high on a hill. The pit regarded us with little interest until the dog that had been following us came into view. Upon spotting our companion, the pit descended on him. Soon other large dogs came running down the hill to join the attack against this dog, whose only transgression was to be there with us. There was nothing we could do but watch in horror as this little dog got its ass kicked. Fortunately, the dog got away from his attackers but as he ran back down the hill, every other lazy dog we had just passed decided to take a poke. Dogs came out from every direction to nip, bite and harass this poor little dog as he tried to make his way home. From off in the distance we heard one more high pitched yip and then nothing.


We were both stunned, standing immobile in the middle of the road. As the adrenaline faded and the grief set in, Sasha took my hand in hers and we continued up the road. Eventually, our silence turned to quiet conversation. We talked about the dog culture that exists here and what it implies about the wider human culture. What our conversation can be boiled down to is this: the world I now live in is more raw, naked and authentic than anything I have ever experienced. What happened to that little dog is just what happens among dogs sometimes. It’s the harsh reality of nature and the code of the street. Life can be brutal, but that is nature, and the experience isn’t sanitized for my living pleasure.

That’s the difference. There is no impetus here to make things seem better than they are. Life is messy and there is beauty and love in the mess.

U.S. culture dictates that we make everything look better than it is. We strive for the illusion of perfection upon first glance and put all our effort into giving the right first impression. The fabric of our so-called dream is so fragile that we don’t dare deviate from it. We put exhaustive effort towards cultivating the perceptions of others and this leaves so little left of us to pursue the life that lies beneath.

In the states, we round up all the stray dogs, hold them in prison, and then kill them. It’s nice and discreet so we don’t have to see it or be bothered by it. Seeing the contrast from this new perspective, I’m inclined to want authenticity over blind comfort. At least here, the dogs have a fighting chance.

My heart hurts for that little dog to whom I am grateful. He has helped me see a little more of this big beautiful world the way it really is. This waterfall is fucking amazing. I wonder if I will see that dog again? He would like this spot.

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