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Time Out

While sitting in transit at LAX it was time to tune up the phone settings to reflect where I was, switch from the e-sim which is no longer any use outside of El Salvador, n fire up the ol kiwi network. It’s at that moment the various Lightening wallets catch my eye jolting my orientation to having just exited the Bitcoin world, and now its back to normie-land for me. Farewell bright orange* future, instant payment settlement and sound money, back to the fiat world. Back to dirty dollar denominated life and old school banking system which I hear is trying to eat its progenitor in so far as ANZ Australia is not dispensing cash any longer? The paper promise which provided our shared delusion that everything was 'as good as gold' is being retired from service in favour of electronic transactions, only. Please don't make me go back to this unfolding dystopia I silently scream at my wandering mind!?! 

It was great while it lasted, and full disclosure, I just lazed it out predominantly. I spent some of my time socialising, a bunch chillin, and plenty pumpin hot air up Bitcoin. Luckily the prison program thing was already sorted at the governmental level so I was able to take early release from that life sentence n move on. So now looking back I wonder just wtf I did for the past two months? But first ...heres the weather. 

I fortunately made peace with the heat. Initially it seemed overbearing although this perhaps was more a fear function than sensory overload. The warmth of the air is palpable, you can smell it, sorta like being near a hay shed in springtime where all that parked veggie matter gives off a faint scent and is carried on wannabe steam that just can't be bothered condensing to a droplet. The warmth is warm, and not much more, which is to say it is not as bothersome as it's nemesis down the nippy end of the human comfort scale. It's occasionally sticky but is not gonna kill ya like Jack Frost will if given half a chance. Strolling around urban areas in the hot sun is challenging but any sort of breeze or shade quickly makes it bearable. And of course the sun is generally always shining, particularly on the coast. Then the rain issue ...there is none. Two months here and on my last day a few clouds gathered and uttered a few thunderous threats, but did little more then spit lazily down for an hour or so, and that was it. End of April that game changes, n kicks off into rain expected each day til October but I won't be around to see it. It's been kind. 

Berlin, de Usulatan:

They say it's all about the journey not the destination and getting off the beaten track is the only way to truly know a country. Google maps may have provided the most direct path, but had nothing to offer about road condition. The vid will give you an appreciation of the torture meted out to my less than task-appropriate Kia matchbox sedan. (go headphones for best audio of the beating being dealt to the vehicles undercarriage). Pointing up the side of a volcanic cone, the road doubles as a water channel exposing the larger rocks that remain jutting out of the surface providing a navigational challenge which probably polished the every strut and crossmember of my trusty rental car to a dazzling shine. The further up the mountain I proceeded, the less opportunities for making a U-turn were available, so you can imagine my relief once civilisation showed itself on the horizon. After near on an hour of shaky rock hopping, the smokey hamlet of Berlin peeked through the undergrowth.

This is the other Bitcoin Beach but on a mountain side, without the beach, the surf, the restaurants, ahhhh, what the hell was I here for? Oh yeah, the Bitcoin ;)  There's not much to set it apart from any other mountain village other than that for some reason it has been adopted by Bitcoiners who want to zap it into the digital future. Perhaps the Salvadorian version of an agricultural village but with a little more industry than the typically dying kiwi rural town. It is self sufficient, resilient, and even boasts a staunch record of independence through the various civil disturbances which have plagued the nation. And this is where it may run into strife. The introduction of Bitcoin is somewhere between uploading, and upstaging, depending who is giving the commentary. My culties are in there pushing our product with gusto, but an ear to the ground picks up quiet rumblings which hint that not everyone may be so keen to adopt our shiny orange trinket. The Bitcoin Berlin team are doing a sterling job at bringing on new businesses and also spreading the good word via a groundbreaking education program which goes by the name 'Mi Primer Bitcoin'. However there are some who are resolutely against it, perhaps as a consequence of ideological rumours that whisper in hallowed halls, and some which is jealous protection by those who have lots to protect. In a small village renowned for its resistance, treading modestly will be prudent as spritely new money pioneers push up against the conservative old skool dollar devotees. 

Beyond Bitcoin, it's beans. Coffee and cacao, and lots of it. Most of the farms are either set up growing one or the other, and all seem to have no shortage of random fruit trees besides - mango, avacado, mandarin, guayabana, banana and others. What gets me is how anything survives between wet seasons, 7-8 mths between drinks in dry volcanic soil, they must be the camels of the tree world? It just seems like a less than ideal way to grow crops. I’d run into some Canadian homies on the first night in Berlin who bought into one of these farms so was great to head out to their new venture and poke around, to take the pulse of coffee farmer life in see how it fits for me. Its something I'm considering as a fall back option. Until other countries begin to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender, this is the number one alternative to living the under commie clown compulsion which the western world seems unable to escape, so I need to know what El Salvador has to offer. Outside of city living there are two easy options, beach life, or mountain life, one being more ‘fresco’ or fresh as they term the slightly less clammy mountain air. Both have their appeal, and fortunately are not far apart geographically so one can have the best of both worlds.

The Halving Party: 

We gathered near the beach settlement of Los Cóbanos in anticipation of Bitcoin's monumental instant of change. It happens every four years, so it's not like a birthday, perhaps more like a leap year celebration? In the single moment of time at which it occurs however there is very little to see, just one tiny automated adjustment to the protocol, and life goes on. In any cult though, even a mildly insignificant retardation can transcend actual merit, sorta like Greta Thumburg, so we celebrate it for all that it could be. For Bitcoiners, this is our moment. The block reward paid to the miners is slashed in half so it’s bad luck miners - work harder! For all other Bitcoiners, nothing else changes, at all. What makes it potentially exciting is the decreased supply of new Bitcoin means the price is likely to rise as a flip-side to demand remaining constant, however there are no guarantees. Still, once you've swallowed the orange* pill, riding the waves of price volatility means the rollercoaster ups n downs don't really matter, it's always exciting so take the ticket n buckle up!

Where we gathered was not quite so exciting. Royal de Cameron, Salinitas, the great getaway for a right royal shafting. This is the fine art of attracting feckless tourists to tropical resorts where they can loll about within a walled garden beside the ocean for a week in an exotic location, then tell their friends they've done country 'x'. It's an all inclusive getaway to a D-grade noddyville concrete wonderland at the ass-end of nowhere, but of course you have already booked and paid for your stay, so enjoying the upsold paradise is the most zen approach if one expects to exit some days later with any dignity whatsoever. Online booking locks in a promise only arrival can break. They have your money and your fate bundled down a one way passage to banality. To the westerner, US$200 per night with all you can eat n drink is a bargain, til acquainted with your accomodation or you're so hungry you must eat at the only buffet in town. Shabby rooms with a door no thicker than heavy footed dickshits ignoring the 'Silencio' sign strategically placed on the opposing wall guard your privacy like a tent. The pedestrians are turning away from it to ascend the stairs so never see it anyway. The door is the kind that doesn't keep out the light let alone sound, and being opposite a stairwell had me wondering if they hadn't profiled me as the sort of precious bee-arch that loses sleep this way, hence assigning me the room specifically. An ever present waft of concrete fails to be concealed by the flaking paint which hangs in the air competing with the aircon for dominance as the most noticeable non-natural odour. Then for extra laughs the food is medium grade institutional slop, featuring tortured mashed potatoes, vapid eggs, and meats separated from any sense of what they were before presumedly being abandoned in the tropical heat for a day or two. The fats can't decide whether to rot visibly or slink shamefully to the edge of the container. Consequently a mild putrefaction hangs as an aftertaste that leaves one nervous about the downstream consequences for days. No amount of sharp pricing or glossy webpages is ever going to drag me back into one of these resorts, I'll take my chances in the real world.

Under these conditions my love affair with my culties was beginning to come undone. I may have bandied the 'cultie' term around as a piss-take but there are some fairly Brian Jonestown elements to this. We all exult the almighty orange B collectively and privately, faffing on about how great it all is. Well yeah, for a while, butt fuck it gets a tad boring after hearing it over …n over …n over. Someone remind me when I get home to shut the hell up if I start bangin' on. As with any cult, parts of it seem to have a two way action where divine intervention rains down from the high priests and rabble raisers, whilst the loyal congregation gathers agape to receive the holy sacrament. I'm always keen to dig into the deets of Bitcoin itself in the hope of extending my knowledge, its just that often peeps are so jacked up on the orange* vibe that the devotion gushing out of every pore runneth over. Fortunately though we are all each others teachers, and even more weirdly for the normies to hear, the more one discovers about Bitcoin the more you seek to learn about it, so hangin with these critters is irresistible. It has been quite the experience. 

So, there ended the El Salvador 2024 tour. Even if all that was starting to sound a little grumpy toward the end, it was a great trip and whilst I may tire of the orange* adulation, I love my culties, they are the bestest! The trip has turned up many new avenues for investigation, personally, life-wise, and also perked up my IOV dream. Now I just need a wee break, while the decimating dollar slowly defects from reality, and reality desperately wonders where it went wrong in assuming paper money could develop humanity's trust and supersede greed? El Salvador may not have won me over yet, but it was great to glimpse the potential. Hopefully next stop, Hawaii, a fantasy island free from the madness, surely?

*orange is our adopted cult colour, any reference to orange can be considered 'the divine magnificence of bitcoin ;)

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