Sunday, March 13, 2011

wondering. wandering.

It seems amazing to feel like another traveling chapter is coming to a close. There is still time left,  but I am getting ready to leave San Pedro and start moving toward Cancun where I will fly out of. The time here has been interesting in so many ways. It has been really good for me to spend time with people who are traveling for short and long terms and some who have made a whole life in another country, just to see what it looks like for other people and how it might (and might not) look for me eventually. So many thoughts go through your head when you just have time to think. Long bus rides are one of my favorite ways of just sitting and thinking. It's hard to get yourself to sit still and just hang out in your brain when you have other options, but when you are on an 8 or a 12 hour bus ride all there is to do is hang out with your brain. I will miss that when it isn't as easy to do.

I leave San Pedro this coming week. I was initially thinking that I would go work in a hostel in Lanquin that we spent some time at a couple weeks ago and they really needed some help but I called them and they have everyone they need right now so hopefully that will still work out for a while in the future but for now I'm not sure what I'll do when I leave here. I think I will go up to that part of the world and spend some extended stays in small towns that tourists hardly ever make it to. The other side of the pendulum swing from San Pedro and I really love that scenery and climate. Oddly, very few people there speak Spanish as they still primarily speak their native languages so it will be fun to go back to that place of not being able to easily communicate.

This weekend I am spending with some friends I met in Xela in a town across the lake from San Pedro and it has been wonderful. They are such smart and lovely people and we've been having lots of conversations about aide work in the world in general and what it feels like and looks like for each of us specifically and we're all getting smarter. I did some body work with Anna and it feels so good to be back in that healing space, it made me realize that I really miss being connected with people that way and realize that when you aren't with the people you know and love, you don't spend any time with people physically. Even hugging people hello and goodbye and just cause you love them. It's such an important part of being human.

Thinking about coming home. About where I might like to live and what I might like to do to make money. How long I might like to stay, where I might like to go next. Wondering, wandering. Noticing how much I am affected by my environment and the people I am around and the work that I am doing and really choosing intentionally. I think it would be enjoyable to work with the immigrant population and wondering what types of opportunities there might be for that, especially without formal education in those fields. Opening up the possibilities of where I might live in my mind. Not necessarily being attached to Portland. Probably Oregon, probably the Portland area, but maybe finally get a little further out into the country where I can step out my front door and take a walk in the woods. That old dream, coming back to haunt. Anybody wanna move to the woods and play cards?

Looking forward to seeing and loving on folks soon. Looking forward to the rest of my time here, curious about where it will take me and who I will meet.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

catching up

Lazy lazy bones! Let's see, six weeks later. The biggest change is that I am living in a new town. It's just the one next door, but is completely different. San Pedro is a pretty big tourist town which is such a treat. I've been pretty strict with myself about living in small local towns and it is the lap of luxury to be where there are great restaurants and wifi shops and lots of English speaking. I've rented a house and slowly but surely am turning these empty rooms into a home. Some friends of mine have come down to live for a few months and are sharing it with me. It's really fun to have housemates and people to cook with and share with.

The center has been on vacation for the last month but when it starts up again I will head over there a few days a week to work with the kids. Like most aide organizations I have found, if you can manage to stay out of the politics and just focus on the people you're hanging out with then it can be pretty fun. Unfortunately for someone who is so organization minded, it is hard to not feel like you could just make it a little easier and better and to not give suggestions which nobody wants. Learning to hold my tongue until it is my own place and hoping to remember to be open to other people's thoughts and suggestions.

I am really enjoying spending lots of time with people who have been traveling the world for years and years and hear their stories and feel like I'm with people who's language I speak. Both literally and metaphorically. It has also given me lots of desire to strike out into other parts of the world. I have been so attached to South of the US because I already speak the language but hearing how easy it has been for them to get along elsewhere gives me courage. I am leaning toward an extended time in India maybe or perhaps the South Pacific islands. It will be interesting to see where the future leads.

I am looking forward to some traveling with Kent and Victoria. There are a few places in Guatemala that I would really like to see before heading out of here. I may also get the ganas (desire) up to head south to other countries in Central America for a few weeks. I have a few friends traveling through Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras right now so I look forward to hearing how those trips have gone and gain some traveler knowledge (easiest bus routes, good hostels, towns to skip etc). Guide books are awesome but never as good as this fresh fresh first hand knowledge.

Still planning on an end of April homecoming, so I look forward to seeing you all then.

Friday, December 3, 2010

pics instead of a post

 I did write a whole post last night, but this computer wont read the file I wrote, so there´s that same old problem. This pic is taken at a lookout above town - the small town to the further right is San Juan, where I live. The other town is San Pedro where I go to have some gringo time.

 Today was ¨day of people with disabilities¨and we had a party at the library. These are Israel and Rosalilla. Isra always wants to know what I´m doing and is always giving me this look, like ¨are you sure? cause that seems kind of weird¨. He´s super fun.

 Kati. An absolute favorite at the center. She always wants to laugh and play and have a good time. We´ve been working with her to get her to walk so she has to go everywhere holding on to you with just one hand which is slow and tedious so she´s always stealing other kid´s walkers so she can run instead.

 Another pic of Rosalilla. We take a lot of walks together and we have a secret where I take her on the dirt roads and we go 4x4ing with her wheelchair and she laughs and laughs and laughs and then I tell her not to tell anyone (she can´t talk) and she laughs and laughs some more.

This is a panorama of the cemetery in Chichicastenango brightly painted. I think you can click on the picture and see it bigger. Very impressive.

Tomorrow morning we head to Mexico to renew visas and wander around a little. Going to San Cristobal and Palenque and Agua Azul. All places I haven´t seen in over 20 years so that will be really fun.

I´ll convert the post I wrote and be sure to write some new ones soon. Life is just moving along pretty normally and all is well. I´m deciding what to do with my winter break from the center so it will be fun to see how that goes.

love to you all,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

San Juan La Laguna


San Juan is so fantastic! We are working with a project for disabled kids here and it is so fun. The staff is amazing, the kids are really fun, it´s a great way to spend our days. In small villages, the rates of kids born with genetic defects of some sort are really high because of the amount of years and years and generations without ¨fresh blood´as it were so there are a disproportionate amount of disabilities. Some are mental defects, some physical, some combination of both. Then on top of that, most of them grew up speaking Txu´tujiil so even the language therapy we do is odd because they don´t speak Spanish anyway. It makes it harder to gage their mental capacities but we blunder along happily with a lot of laughing along the way. One of my favorite kids is named Mishel and he has pretty significant Autism. He will engage given the right stimulation though which is nice. He also loves loves to hug which is very sweet. Yesterday he wanted a piece of string to play with (shake in one hand over his head) and he had one but then we went on to other things and it got left behind ( I took it away then forgot it) then later on he went looking for the box where we found the string the first time and so I had him follow me over to where we were sitting and I cut him a piece of string and gave it to him then got distracted by someone else and totally forgot then in just a minute or so he came over and started hugging me and looking me in the eye and shaking his string and hugging me. Maybe I´m making it up, but it looked like an engaged ¨thank you¨ to me and it felt good. There are kids with Downs Syndrom and Spinobiffeta and Cerebral Palsy and all sorts of other things I haven´t quite figured out the English translation for. Some kids have had testing done and some haven´t so there are lots of best guesses.

One of the things that is so great about this project is that they have a psychologist and a physical therapist and speech therapist and once a week a musician comes and once a week an artist and there is a volunteer that has a therapist dog that does work there. Instead of just somewhere for people to dump their disabled kids for the day, they are actually helping and making a difference. The hardest part is probably educating the parents. Culturally here, disabilities are viewed as a punishment from God for not being a good person. This means that kids get hidden away in little rooms and parents typically have as little to do with them as possible. Slowly but slowly hopefully ideas get changed. In talking with the staff it certainly seems like some of the parents are becoming more and more willing to try to work with their kids to help them become more independent.

Bego and I are living in a hotel for the time being. There is a woman at the center who has a house with a couple of rooms that volunteers stay at but the guy with the dog is in the big one and the other one is way way too small to be shared by two people. He goes back to Spain at the end of the month so we´ll move then. We have a beautiful view of the lake right now and a bathroom in our room and cable TV. Such luxuries! The home we´ll be moving to is very traditional - I´ll just have to post photos rather than try to explain, but it will be fun to be living with a family.

We are going to start weaving lessons today. All the ladies of  San Juan do weaving and it is well known for it´s beautiful natural dye textiles - really great stuff. We are going to spend a couple of afternoons a week at the house of one of the students at the school. They have had three kids with disabilities out of eight. One died already, one is completely housebound and will die soon. Griselda is at the center but wont live to see 15 and they have a baby that no one knows about yet. I don´t know what the disease is but it is degenerative so the kids won´t make it to adulthood. The mom had a surgery with the birth of the latest kid so dad started weaving because he couldn´t make enough money to support his family farming. They are so poor and their lives are really hard, but they are such wonderful people with really ready smiles. It is great that they ended up being who we will be able to support with a little financial help for the weaving classes and being able to take a little food with us when we go for lessons. We just happened to meet one of their daughters at a weaving collective in town and then it turned out that her sister was at the center so serendipity stepped in to help out.

We are meeting lots of really nice people and have offers to go crab hunting on the lake, go out into the lake in a boat for full moon, go hunting in the hills up above San Juan, take walking tours to the small villages in the area, go up to the local lookout (Indian nose) and all sorts of other things and we haven´t even been here a week! We thought San Juan would be kind of boring, but it turns out that there is so much to do. I´m skipping eating lunch to finally come to the dang internet!

I will get pictures together soon, I promise.

Love to you all,

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Life is grand

I feel so so much better! Thanks for bearing with me.

My dear friend Bego from Casa Guatemala arrived in Xela yesterday and it is so brilliant to see her. I knew I was feeling tired of traveling alone but until she came, I didn't understand quite how much. I have made friends here in Entremundos house but it is totally different to have a friend come to see you. Even if it was a friend made so recently, to have a history with someone is so much more important than it seems like it would be.

She and I leave for Lake Atitlan tomorrow. We're moving there. Going to look for some great volunteer opportunities, going to look for a perfect apartment to move into. I am so excited to have a partner in crime. I'm so excited to live at the lake. It really is one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

We've been exploring everywhere the last couple of days. Doing things that I kept meaning to do but never quite got around to. One of those things was the museum which was pretty great. Well, most of it was pretty boring as museums are, but then, there was a very back room upstairs - the very best museums have a half hidden back room don't you know. It was full of taxidermied animals, which I happen to love. So we're looking at various birds and large cats and even a ChowChow dog, which seemed kind of odd to have in a museum, but hey, why not? Some animals were more mundane, like a baby calf except turning the corner, it had two heads. Straight out of Ripley's Believe it or Not. Definitely getting more interesting.

**please note at this point that it is not allowed to take photos inside the museum. there is a full time guard in this final room to make sure that you are unable to share any of this with the rest of the world.** 

Then jars of animal fetuses started to appear which were pretty creepy. Didn't love that part too much. Things are definitely taking a turn for the strange. I couldn't help but start thinking about Geek Love and getting creeped out.  Then in the back corner, these jars of animal fetuses turned into jars of conjoined twin animal fetuses.

Geek Love.

Hard to look at even though you kind of had to, cause what the fuck IS that? But you were looking with squinty eyes cause you really didn't want to know, except that you did. Kind of like scary movies. So finally coming out of that extreme weirdness, we were confronted with this...

I don't know. The guard swears they are real and they were found off the Pacific Coast of Guatemala. There is no way. I found this photo looking it up on the internet and there is nothing to be said about these diablillos del mar except this photo. They have to be created. But then I was just looking at animal bones all mixed up together and two headed and tailed baby crocodiles so what do I know? Nothing except we were so creeped out and laughing and thank God somebody was there to share that. Because some things should not be experienced alone.

Man, I wish I had photos of those siamese twin fetuses. Except not really cause then I would look at them. And share them with you. And you don't want that either. Except you kind of do.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

what's really true

I feel less sure than I used to. I've said too much. I've told too many. Now there are expectations. Now it is for other people. I've lost the vision. I've lost the dream. I've lost the prayers. I'm lost.
I don't really know why I'm here except it's what I'm supposed to do now. I don't have any better plan. Too many people have helped me get here to abandon it now. It doesn't feel real. It doesn't feel authentic. I don't feel authentic. Maybe I need to go do some of that rebirthing work in San Marcos.  Do something. Anything. It's been too long. I don't feel connected to people. I don't feel connected to myself.
I don't know if I believe in aide work anymore. I don't know if aide work is even the goal. Is it? Or was the ranch just a place where all the people I loved would come and it would never end? And now that those relationships are compromised I don't really care anymore.
How could I have fallen so far out of love with my life? Once upon a time Matt told me he didn't know anyone who loved their life as much as I loved mine. What happened to that girl? How do I fix it? How do I fix who I am?
How do I tell anyone that I am not me. They know already. What happened? At what point did I disasociate with the world? When did I stop loving people? When did I stop loving me? When did I stop saying thank you? When did I stop believing in God? When did I lose faith? It seems to have happened. I can't find it anymore. I can't tap in to the eternal source. 
I  took that trip to find the me I lost and ended up even more lost than before. I don't feel like I'm on the right path. I don't feel like I'm pulling my weight in the world. I don't look around me and make it better anymore. I used to think I could. I used to believe that even if I just made it better for somebody that I was doing my job in the world. Did it just get too overwhelming? Did I lose faith that I can make it better at all? My drop in this bucket suddenly seems so small. The world's need seems so big. My lovelight is so dim it isn't lighting my way, it certainly isn't lighting the way for the people around me.
So how do I fix that? How do I shine more brightly? I'm out of ideas. How do I find the motivation when it isn't there? What am I not admitting to? There must be something, some kind of switch that I'm not finding. In this dark room unable to find the light switch.
When I know what it takes and I just don't do it. I know that praying helps and I don't do it. I know that making lists of gratitude works and I don't make them. I know that drinking enough water and getting exercise helps and I don't do it. I know that I shouldn't still be awake at 2am but I have no intention of turning off the light. How do I get myself to do it? How do I find the motivation?
I don't feel like I've gotten smarter in a long time. I used to get smarter all the time and now I feel so much less smart than I used to be even.
Maybe I've been trying to take a shortcut with traveling. Thinking that smarter will happen all on its own if I am going to the places people get smarter. I guess it's true, that the only enlightenment you find on the top of mountains is the enlightenment you take up there with you.
All I know to do now is to change my situation. Put myself into a situation where I am working hard and don't have time for all this nonsense. Get back into the country. Get back to where I can sit and look at mountains. Figure out a way to be able to afford some of the meditation retreats.
Once I told someone I was really stuck and I felt like I needed a firehose to come and clean out my gunked up gears. She told me that it was fine to wait for a firehose to come along and all but in the meantime I should probably get out an eyedropper and get to work. Smart lady.
So I guess just have faith that I am on the right path. Have faith that I have chosen an immediate future that will work better for me than living in the city right now with a lot of frustrated and cynical people talking. Start over in the bottom corner of the dark room and go row by row, brick by brick and look for the switch again because it must be here, I just haven't recognized it yet. Get out the eyedropper. Make myself do it.
I am grateful for the people who raised me and the childhood and education and opportunities I have been given.
I am grateful for the people who have been put in my life and continue to be in it loving me and supporting me.
I am grateful that despite my best efforts sometimes, I am in good health.
I am grateful for a life that gives me the freedom to explore these things instead of just wondering where my next meal might come from.
I am grateful for the abundance. Mine and the universe's.
I am grateful that I am a child of the universe and that I am loved and that I do walk in light and if I would just open my eyes I will see and know.
I am grateful that this dream exists. I am grateful that in my heart of hearts if I really get still and listen and watch, it will still show itself to me. I know it is timid from being beaten up, but she is still there, eager to be friends again and to trust me again.
I am grateful for the smiles on the faces of the people who have little reason to smile and the reminders they give.
I am grateful for this beautiful tool chest of mine that knows when to pull out a list of gratitude.

some overdue photos

highlands of guatemala on the way to Xela

something about this statue.

looking over san pedro to atitlan

another of lake atitlan

traditional dress

Antigua church - never rebuilt after earthquake in the 1700s

I haven't taken photos of Xela off my camera yet. The last couple of weeks have been spent learning a lot about the political history of Guatemala. The civil war and the years preceding it. Feeling some uncomfortable ownership of the role that the US played in creating the civil war. That's always hard, then I feel glad to not be Spanish anyway because there is no escaping the conquistador stories.

Talking a lot about the ways that trying to help so often ends up hurting. Interesting perspectives from smart people who have been doing aide work for a long time, trying to find the balances always. Different opinions about what is helpful vs what is harmful, not finding all the right answers but getting so much smarter. Realizing so many things I've just never thought of before, spending a lot of time just sitting and watching and thinking.

I'm looking forward to getting out to the coffee plantation and doing. There are a couple that I'm interested in and hearing great things about. They are both in their infancy and reportedly really open to ideas and embracing any volunteers that come (and there aren't too many) into the communities for as long as they stay. My thought is to spend a month with each of them, but we all know how my thoughts often change. I look forward to getting there and reporting back.

I went to the cemetery yesterday and everyone is getting everything all cleaned up and freshly painted and ready for Day of the Dead. There are lots of wildflowers growing and in the old parts the cemetery looks more like a meadow where the graves have overgrown with flowers and it's really pretty. I look forward to more walks there.

Love to you all,
be well,