When Alex Appella left Juneau with her husband, Magu, in October 1999, she had just started to get serious about her bookbinding hobby.
Since then, she and Magu have turned their Web site, www.transientbooks.com, into a full-time job. At their home in Cordoba, Argentina, a small village in the foothills of the Sierra Chica range, they specialize in custom bookbinding and creating blank journals and artists' books.
"It's like anywhere else; it has a lot of things going for it," Alex said of Cordoba. "We're content, and we live out in the country with a community around us. It's a great place to be creative, and a place where spending an afternoon chatting with somebody isn't a wasted afternoon. That's something I really appreciate."
The couple is visiting the United States for a month and is back in town for a week, during which they'll host a show at The Plant People, on Willoughby Avenue next to Channel Bowl, at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11. Magu, 35, will play a selection of Latin American folk songs on guitar, and Alex, 31, will share poetry and some examples of her custom books.
"I haven't been back to the United States in two years, and it's always surprising to see how many more material items there are in two years, and that there's still a whole lot of people with not enough," Alex said. "Coming from South America, it's always an impact."
Alex attended high school in Salem, Ore. She was eventually coerced by her brother to move to Juneau in August 1992. Her first stint in town lasted 11 months, before she left temporarily to travel.
"It was the typical Juneau experience," she said. "You're there for awhile and then you come back."
Alex met Magu on a trip to Argentina in 1994. They moved to Juneau together in 1997, and were in town on and off for three years. She worked for REACH.
Magu has been playing guitar since he was 13. His style ranges from Argentine and Brazilian folk to bossa nova, jazz, the Beatles and Bob Marley. He will also have copies of a CD recorded by Sombraitoro, a band he played with in Cordoba.
In Juneau, Magu worked on the bottling line at the Alaskan Brewery and played guitar, occasionally at the Alaskan Bar and Valentine's Coffeehouse.
"I just played around Juneau, as a semipro kind of thing," he said. "Sometimes you would go and have a regular place to play for money or tips. Other than that, just a lot of jamming and gathering with a vast population of musicians, which was absolutely interesting."
Alex and Magu always had the dream of taking a long road trip overland, and in October 1999 it was finally time.
"We didn't have a final destination in mind, just the goal of seeing the planet change from Alaska and going down as far as we could," Alex said.
They went to Montana and traveled through the Great Plains, Idaho, Oregon and Washington in an old Subaru. In California, they sold the car and borrowed a motorcycle to get to San Diego. From Tijuana, they were on foot.
"My backpack was the bookbinding studio, and Magu's backpack was the stove and clothes," Alex said. "He had a traveling guitar, and I had a typewriter. We sold books and made books, and went through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica."
From there, they took a plane back to Cordoba. The whole trip took nine months.
Alex and Magu have visited more than a dozen countries in the last five years, and their observations turn up in her writings. She's written nine books since 1999, including "America Schizophrenica," an essay about why she chooses to live in Argentina.