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,

Sunday, October 17, 2010

grateful for our educational system after all

Well, it's been a while hasn't it?

Mostly I think I feel like I'm not doing much so there isn't much to write about. I went to visit a few different agencies about doing work for them but by the time I was able to set up meetings and go and meet with them, I'm not going to be in Xela for the month minimum that they require so they have declined my offers to help. I understand why they put a minimum, but it is still frustrating.

I am looking at various projects in smaller towns as historically I know that suits me better. I am also not interested in spending another winter so freaking cold. So, the places I'm looking are at least a little lower in altitude and I'm hoping that one of them will be something I enjoy. If not, then I'll do what I did in Peru and look around until I find a town that I like and move there and then look around for ways to be of help.

I was talking for a while with an agency in Antigua that is looking for a volunteer coordinator that I think I would enjoy and be very qualified for but while they pay a (very) small stipend, they are really looking for someone to spend two years though they said they could live with a one year commitment. That wouldn't even start until the beginning of December and I'm sure that my savings wont last me that long. I've told them that I have to pass but maybe with some luck the next time they are looking for a coordinator will be about the same time I'm looking to move back out into the world again. I really think that next time I head out it will be to spend a year or two at this type of level, I think it is just the kind of experience I am looking for. It really is a shame that the orphanage was so awful because their volunteer coordinator just left and that position is open with a six month commitment and at very very very little out of pocket expense. But, I still wont go back there.

I am looking at a fun seeming place in a village on Lake Atitlan that I think I will go and visit this week coming that might be just the thing. The agency itself is in a very small town not at all geared toward tourism but is a short boat ride away from those towns when I felt like I wanted to get away a bit. I will be interested to see what they are all about. The work primarily with physically handicapped kids - they incorporate massage therapy in their programs and it would be fun to use that training in that way.

The other place I am really curious about is an organic coffee plantation near the coast. They are a group of 32 families that were all rebels in the civil war that have come together to buy a plantation. They have the idea that they fought with their lives for the chance at a better life and while they may not live it, they have the chance to give it to their children. So there are schools there that go through sixth grade and it is mandatory that all kids go to school and finish at least this level and they are committed to the schools being the best that they can make them. When kids finish this level, the community jointly sets aside some of the harvest funds to send the brightest on to the city to further their education, hoping they will come back and help the community.

This is pretty amazing in a country that has to pay people to send their kids to school because of the income lost when kids aren't working for the family. The schools here also for the most part of a complete farce. It's amazing how much these kids don't learn. No wonder it doesn't seem worth it to send your kids to school, even if you could afford to (you have to buy various uniforms and books and notebooks and all sorts of other stuff). They often will get through their primary (6th grade) education (often at 15 or 16) still barely able to read or write or do any more than very basic arithmetic and subtraction. There are schools that kids can go to to become teachers (through about 9th grade) and they still aren't being well educated so you've got 18 and 19 year olds who are barely educated, despite spending 9 years in school teaching little (and not so little) kids. It's amazing. I guess they are the growing pains of the developing world but it is just so incredible to watch. Easy to judge with the eyes of someone educated in the developed world. I have to stop and remember that it's only really recently that the government has put these programs into place where they pay families to educate their kids and that they are really trying to change things and that progress comes slowly and painfully.

I was visiting with the man doing some work on the house the other day about this. His parents speak Quiche but wouldn't allow he or his siblings (10) to learn it because it is a backwards language that only the poor people speak. (their words and concept, not mine) But they also wouldn't allow any of these kids to go to school because it would make them uppity. Part of what he does is tile work for example but since he can't read or write or do math, it is difficult for him to know how much material to buy or how much it will cost. He used to have to go to someone who would do these figures for him at a price, but he figured if he sent his kids to school they would be able to help him and he wouldn't have to pay for that fee. That's what it took for him to send his kids to school. His eight year old son is teaching him to read and write and do figures (luckily he ended up in a pretty good school) and he loves so much to feel educated even as an adult but he can't share it with his family because they will accuse him of putting on airs.

Anyway, so that is what makes this community of coffee farmers pretty great sounding. I've written them an email but haven't heard back so tomorrow I will call them and see if I can set up a day next week to come out and visit them to see if there is a match.

In the mean time, Xela is still a pretty nice city to be passing some time in. I love to go to the markets and walk around and ride buses to wherever they go, then pay my fair again to come back and the drivers think I'm crazy. It helps to be a foreigner, you always have an excuse for doing crazy things.

I did get to see people today dressed in traditional costume performing a folkloric dance to a Spanish version of "Hotel California". That was pretty great.

missing autumn,
and central heating,
and you all,

a picture of Lake Atitlan

Friday, October 8, 2010

three! balls in a row!

As suspected, I am enjoying Xela.

Today we took a bus to some hot baths - water heated by the volcano to fill up private tubs - 10q for one hour. ($1.25) and it was heavenly. Today was even sunny and relatively warm. I can't wait to go when it's really cold and there's no way to actually be warm and then you can go get in a hot bath. When I was in Peru I craved that even more than a hot shower. Xela is only about 500 meters lower in altitude than Ollantaytambo was and we are coming into cold season. Will I never learn?

I bought a sweatshirt today which pleases me as I brought clothes for the jungle, not thinking I would end up back in the mountains. Should have known better.

The house I'm living in is cool. There are a few different NGO offices here and five different bedrooms. Showers, a kitchen, courtyards, it's pretty nice. The people staying here are fun.

There's a guy in his mid 60's who was a commercial fisherman for years and now teaches juggling at a summer camp and is learning to ride a unicycle. He travels during the winter. He spends time in the dumps in Nicaragua and to be honest I'm feeling a little tempted to go with him for a while when he heads down there in six weeks. He's also teaching me to juggle and it's fun to be learning. Finally today I was able to throw all three balls once each and catch them. I am hoping for some more progress tomorrow and to actually be able to juggle for a few throws in a row.

There is a girl in her early thirties from Japan who has been traveling around the world for the last four years or so and her boyfriend lives in Eugene doing coding for a video game. Small world. She has been here for a few weeks and loves to explore so she's been showing me around town, it's really nice to have someone who knows which buses to take and where to find things.

There is a guy in his mid twenties who came here to learn Spanish and has been living in Xela for about eleven weeks. He was living with a host family but things went terribly wrong, as they so often do, so he found himself here at Entremundos. He has asked me to speak only Spanish with him so he can continue to learn and I try to remember.

A girl from Australia arrives tomorrow and the five of us will all be here for the next month or so at least. None of the rest of them play cards or drink at all so I have high hopes for the girl from Australia. Perhaps she will like to play some cards or dice and have a beer once in a while. That would be grand.

On Monday I have an appointment to meet with an agency doing childcare in a domestic violence shelter here. One of only two or three in all of Guatemala. Seems like it could be a really great way to spend my days and feel like I've done something useful to someone with my days.

Hope all is well with you,

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

unpacking is so great

I am in Xela! (Quetzaltenango) and I think I am really going to like it here. I have rented a room for a month in a place called Entremundos(.org) where they organize different volunteer agencies and people who want to work with them and they rent rooms in their building. I think it will be a fun mix of having a room of my own and being around people with similar mindsets. I look forward to visiting with the volunteer coordinator tomorrow about what types of projects there are and what kinds of things might be a good fit.

I suspect that I will spend a month here as I just needed somewhere to unpack finally and do some short term volunteering in the city then after my month here is up go to a village somewhere nearby (in the mountains again wouldn't you know, I think I am just going to have to give in and understand that in my heart I belong in the mountains – I am always drawn here)

I spent a couple of days in Antigua, met some friends of a friend and they were lovely people. The organization they are involved in sounds fantastic but Antigua is just too expensive to live in. And it's hard to get out of the city and into the country somewhere. I am really aching for a couple of hours next to a body of water or in front of some mountains. I spent a couple of days in San Pedro on Lake Atitlan but never found a peaceful spot to just sit by the lake. I'm sure they exist, I just didn't find it in the day I was there. Now here I am in the city again but by all accounts, it's very easy to get out of the city here and safe to walk around so in the next couple of days I will make sure that I get the chance to just sit somewhere and look at the mountains.

Hope everyone is great, I'm glad to be back in a more positive frame of mind and looking forward to what then next few days will find me.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

photos - one sweet orphan and some ruins in the jungle

This is one of the temples in Tikal. I bribed a guard to enter the park at 3:30am - he was nice enough to walk with me to the temple in the dark or I would never never have found it and would probably still be lost in the jungle. I got to hang out for about an hour with the howler monkeys and jaguars whoofing before another three people came to share the morning with me. It was pretty amazing and I wish I'd had hours more up there.

I organized a day of field games a couple of weekends ago and paid for the winning team to go to Backpackers hotel for ice cream sundaes - This is Edi - he wouldn't leave my side all day in case he might miss the boat. Except when I promised promised that he had enough time to go and change into his best clothes because he wanted to look nice. Heartbreakingly sweet.

Up close of part of a carving in Tikal

in front of one of the ruins in Tikal

Here is a good example of how most of the ruins in Tikal were found - they have been being restored for many many years and most of the photos you will see are only the front facades restored and the backs are still piles of dirt. This is the back of a beautifully restored front. Pretty amazing to see what they've done.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

For better or for worse


Well, here I am out of Casa Guatemala. I have mixed feelings about choosing to go but in the end decided that I was too tired of being mad and frustrated to stay. I wont rule out the chance of heading back if some things seem better but that just might be to ease my conscious about walking away and leaving the rest of the volunteers with more work and my whole group of girls with no one to take care of them. They are capable of taking care of themselves, but we all want to feel like somebody cares about where we are and where we´ve been and how our days were.

For better or worse, the decision has been made and I´m at a hostel in Rio Dulce.

There is a huge tropical storm off the coast of Honduras and we are getting rain from that and it is indeed impressive. The worst of it is supposed to come tonight so I´m hoping that the roads don´t wash out and I´ll be able to get out of Rio Dulce. I´m sure I´ll be able to get somewhere as this is a crossroads, I just don´t know where yet. And there wont likely be reports  on the roads by tomorrow morning when I plan to leave so I may end up stuck in a river somewhere. Part of the adventure!

I haven´t decided where to go next even. North toward Tikal? Over to the highlands - Antigua and Lake Atitlan? To the Pacific Coast? Don´t know yet.

Anyway, just thought I´d write and tell what I´d decided. I know that place and those kids will likely haunt me always. I will always wonder if I should have stayed. If I could have found a way to fight through the corruption and the absolute lack of interest in change. If I could have miraculously started to get through to the girls that no one else has been able to. To wonder if I ran away from somewhere I should have stayed. I have to trust that when I was in the middle of it I knew the only solution was to get out of it.

I´ll write again when I find myself somewhere new-

Monday, September 20, 2010


Felix racing around on his motorcycle - he does stunts that are awesome

looking at monkeys with Chana. Sometimes the howler monkeys that usually live out behind the houses come to the trees in the patio. I love those days.

favorite favorite favorite activity

Marisol, Jossi and Clara Luz - some of "my" girls

Erick playing in my room - somehow the upload squished the photo all weird - he's cute, not an alien

Sunday, September 19, 2010

should i stay or should i go?

warning - long one! trying to work out my head. this is a letter I sent to geoff since i haven't been able to figure out what to say here.

I think I'm going to leave here. I just had a moment of realization. I've got a permanent scowl on my face that try as I might I can't get rid of. I'm ready with a yell for any child that may happen to cross my path. I even have a necklace of key hanging around me jingle-jangling every time I walk. I'm HER! The cross matron. It's not really true, I'm more patient than anyone else here, but sometimes I feel like I'm being her.

Then, a child is crying because she got hit in the mouth swimming but all she really needed was to lay in my arms and be held for ten minutes. It's also what I needed. I think that is where my heartache lies more than anything. What these kids really need is some love but what they get are volunteers stretched too thin to have the patience to love them. Every last one of us at our last straw. I believe the kids to be at risk. 6 people are in charge of the health and safety and well-being of 250 kids. No one in charge of us. No one else looking out. We have a coordinator but she is worthless at best. Actually harmful most of the time. Absent a great deal of time.

So I struggle with whether to stay or go. I am being a person I dislike more than I can express. I complain, I yell, I'm not fair. I'm the only volunteer that speaks both english and spanish. 4 others that speak only english. one that speaks only spanish but she's in charge
of 22 girls ages 4-8 so I end up being the one paying attention to everything, talking to every kid when they're misbehaving. The authority figure for all of them. Always telling them when they're doing wrong. The one in the middle of disagreements between the volunteer who speaks only spanish and the rest. Then accused of managing by the coordinator. Told that this is not my job and to not do it. But then she is worthless so no one does it. She's at me every
time I turn around. Hates that I think of things she's not thinking of, that the rest of the volunteers come to me with problems or things they need solved then yells at me when I try to do it. I feel like every time I turn around I'm in trouble with someone for something
they should be thanking me for. But then it will be even worse if I go.

Today I lost it. Told my girls I was leaving. Told them mean things, went to my room and cried. Then had to go put on a good face to be the ringmaster of a day of field games that I organized that the kids only complained about. Don't want to be here anymore with these ungrateful
wretched children who are mean and tell me to go home anyway. They are so rude. And I get it. I get it. Everyone who has ever been in charge of them their whole entire lives has left them. Starting with their parents then to this compound in the jungle you can never leave - some
haven't left this piece of land in literally years- then every volunteer that has ever come to be in charge of them, to love them, to teach them to open their hearts. Every single one has left them. Of course they are awful. I get it. I get it. I get it. There is nothing I can do to change it. I will also leave them. Whether it's this week or in December, I will leave them. They will have yet another personality to get to know. Someone else who doesn't know their names, who wants to know their stories, who doesn't even know where to get more shampoo.

How do I reconcile it?

Do I leave, not wanting to support this organization - I haven't even gone into how corrupt the person who runs this place is. Every day I learn more about how much she steals from these children. Not give my support and energy and attention to something that I disagree with so
strongly. Do I leave because I am miserable and feel like no matter what I do, someone is going to let me know how f-ed up it is and there is no support?

Or is this one of those things that will make me stronger if I just stick with it? Am I just being extra emotional because we don't have proper nutrition and there isn't any way to drink enough water and we don't get enough sleep and there is no such thing as a day off? Does it matter if these are the reasons if the end result is the same?

No matter how many times I turn it around in my head I just don't know. I want to leave more than anything. Is it a cop out? I don't know.

I'm curious to find out what I do.

Thanks for emails, it really helps to know that you're out there.


today is tomorrow and I feel a little better. I talked with my girls last night though and asked them what to do? How do I manage them better? What would they do if they were me? To a girl they said that the only way is with yelling and punishments. I talked with the useless volunteer coordinator this morning and she said the only way is to detach. To not care what they think of me, to be tough and keep them in line. Well, that is a shitty way to live. She says, you can't help them, your expectations are too high. Well if I don't think I can help any of them, why on earth would I come here? To a compound in the middle of the jungle, completely isolated where the kids are wild beasts?

Now the boat captain is yelling at me that someone is going to tell Snra Angie how everything is going here, that it's completely out of control, as a threat. I just said "please, someone tell someone. How on earth can we possibly keep everything going? He says, keep the computer room door open! I say I've closed it because the boys come in and bother us and wont let us be. Well, kick them out! But they don't listen to me, what can I actually do if eight boys are in here and wont leave when I tell them to? Just kick them out!" Well, thanks for all your help, Don Tocho.

Last night two of the big boys got a hold of one of the little girls and threatened her with a knife, held to her stomach, told her they would kill her, she managed to get away but they said they would come looking for her in the night and get her while she slept. So she slept in my room and they closed the entrance to our house with a lock which is never done and a guard was put outside of our house with a gun. Then today, there has been no punishment for them. The workers are yelling at the volunteers that we aren't doing a good job of keeping things under control, but we aren't workers. This isn't our job. We are here to help, not be in charge. Everything is completely messed up.

But how do you leave knowing that it will just be even worse than it is for everyone left?

Jeez. It's all really stupid right now.

Guess I'll come out of it with some lessons.

thanks for listening/reading. i'll try to have something nicer to say soon. at least post some photos. cause they kids are really cute, i'll have to give them that.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

mirros and monkeys

I seem to be falling into a nice rhythm with the girls. After some soul searching about really how to do this I have remembered and realized and really understood that people are always mirrors. If you want to change someone's reactions, change your actions. So I treat the girls like they know what they are doing and I am here to help, not dictate. This seems to be working really well. Telling them that I trust them to do what needs to be done and that I wont be checking up on them unless it becomes a problem. Suddenly, no more fights with them. Giving them more freedom rather than less. “It seems like you all have extra time in the morning after doing all of your chores, shall we try sleeping in 15 more minutes a day and see how that goes?” “YES!” so now we get up at 5:00 instead of 4:45 (because, really?!?!) and they still get everything done. So then I tell them that if they will just go to bed properly that they can have lights out at 8:15 instead of 8:00 and suddenly no more fights about bedtime. They actually end up in bed sooner than they did when we were fighting about it.

I went to town yesterday so another volunteer was watching them and I told them that I would bring back a movie for them but if I heard that they were being jerks that I wouldn't give it to them for another week. I got back and they had gotten themselves into their lines for dinner and eaten and done everything properly without needing any authority figure to tell them. So I gave them their movie and also some pastries I brought them. I told them that I was so sure they would be good that I bought cookies that I would have had to throw away otherwise. They just behave better and better the more I show them that I trust them.

Everyone was warning me about how tough I was going to have to be with them and what jerks they are which I am sure is some of the problem I was having. I came into this expecting a fight, and I got one. Some of the teachers complain about them and tell me how awful they are, and they probably are at school but interestingly, the ones they say are the worst are the ones that are the best for me. They show the most leadership and offer to help and always do what I ask. It's amazing. I think it is a true testament to the idea that people behave the way they are expected to.

I still have to talk to them sometimes about stuff but I make sure to do it in private and usually hugging them (they always want to be hugging) and just explain to them how their lack of respect (usually for someone else) isn't cool and how would they feel and to please not to that anymore and they are so receptive to it.

The biggest fights we were having and that other people told me I would have with them was about being ready on time. So I just tell them what time it is regularly. “30 more minutes” “15 more minutes” “5 more minutes” “Be in line in one minute” and they are there without any problems. It is when I forget to give them time warnings that we have problems and that is my fault. I tell that that when I get grumpy that they aren't on time and I haven't given them proper warnings just to remind me and I will stop being grumpy. And they do and I do and it works.

The one thing that is happening that has always happened that doesn't seem to be stopping in spite of talks about how much stealing sucks is that they steal each other's clothes. This seems to be something that has been happening always so I'm going to ask the directors if I can buy them locks for their closets. The boys have locks and I think the girls should get them also. It will only cost me about $30 and seems well worth it to have the stealing stop. Everyone should have some privacy. I will have copies of the keys and we can get into them anytime we want to, but at least they will be safe from each other.

So with less than a week here I starting to feel really good about how things are going. I am starting to really enjoy these girls and glad to have this challenge after all.

I hear that there are terrible mudslides around the rest of the country but so far here we haven't been affected. We are just at the beginning of hurricane season though so I expect we'll get some storms but hopefully nothing too big.

The howler monkeys were in the trees in our courtyard today for the first time since I've been here. It was fun to see them finally after hearing them further away.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

cycle and recycle

Sometimes these girls take me back to being fourteen and I react not to them as me but to who they were as who I was. Terrified sometimes that they will figure out that I don't actually have any authority. To have to remind myself that I am not her and they are not them and to calm the frack down, they didn't even do anything. Yet. Not really, nothing worth actually getting angry about.

It's probably a gift to go back to that girl who learned to be frightened to draw attention to herself. To have another chance to have different relationships with those girls who were so tough and scary when I was that age. I vacillate between wanting to let them do whatever they want and buying them candy so they like me and wanting to punish them out of spite for things they haven't even done. To me. I'm sure they do them to each other.

Sometimes I kind of hate them. Sometimes I even really love them and can't believe how good they are. Mostly I try to remember to have so much sympathy and empathy for them. I have to keep reminding myself that some of them have been here 10 years or more, just dropped off by families and they don't even know why and they no longer have any contact but they know there is a family out there somewhere that just doesn't want them, doesn't care about them. And here is yet another person here in a role of authority but she doesn't even know where the damn soap is. How can you respect that? Like a friend of mine talks about, sometimes you have to respect the role, if not the person. How do I teach them that?

I am so curious about how this will all play out. I'm sure they'll test me and I'll react badly a bunch of times before this is through.

What a gift these lessons are. Not all abandoned kids are cute four year olds who want to crawl into your lap because they need physical attention. Sometimes they are old enough to be pissed about the hand they've been dealt and to deny that is a grave injustice.

Doesn't mean that it doesn't piss me off when they are shit heads.

Monday, September 6, 2010

the news from Casa Guatemala

Even after just a couple of days I feel like I'm settling in nicely here at Casa Guatemala. I guess that normally there are about 30 volunteers but right now I see only six. I guess that two are on their break, but still, not too many. I am interested to see where my head is in a few weeks. The rest of the volunteers want out for sure. They are sick and they are tired and they are frustrated and they are angry and they are negative. I'm going to do all that I can to make sure to keep in perspective what we are doing and why we are here and that it just isn't all that bad. Of course I've been here three days, so what do I know? I know that it's much harder to keep your spirits up when you've been sick for weeks and weeks. And when you've been eating the same simple food meal after meal, day after day, week after week. There are always beans. Sometimes there are eggs and vegetables, sometimes there is pasta, sometimes there is rice. There are always tortillas. Luckily there are also plenty of spices and the beans and vegetables are delicious. I would love to have beans and vegetables and tortillas every meal but so far we only had vegetables one day and the other days have been beans with rice or pasta. Seems to be the same-ish meals all day – certainly not going to throw anything away. So far I don't mind and actually feel pretty good. I'm not hungry between meals and I'm not having the carb sugar crashes that I'm so used to so that's great.

I drink about a gallon and a half of water a day and only pee twice or three times which amazes me. Never not sweating. We had a little rain last night preceded by a nice wind. It was after bedtime for the girls but I let them sit out on the patio to take advantage of the breeze. I couldn't lay in bed and didn't think it was probably fair to make them do either. We'll see if I get in trouble for it.

One thing I hadn't thought about is that because there are teenage boys and girls here that there are boyfriends/girlfriends/fights/breakups and none of it is condoned by the powers that be. They like to think that there will be no contact and so there is a constant struggle to keep things on the up and up. Last night as I was trying to get all the girls inside to watch a movie on the computer there was a breakup that happening so I just stood there to act as witness. One of the boys said I could go in, that she would be along soon. I told him that I had to make sure that nothing bad happened and he said that was why he was there and I didn't have to worry. So I put out my hand and told him that then everyone would be extra safe with us both there and I was glad to have an ally. He wasn't sure that was what he wanted but he didn't have much choice so we shook on it and waited it out. I'm not sure what to do with that stuff yet. I guess you just do the best you can. The girls were watching a movie last night and a girl who is really surly – the toughest customer – came in and sat in my room and talked with me the whole time. At first I thought that was pretty nice but I eventually realized she was there to keep me from checking and that someone had snuck out to meet a boy. I mean, maybe not, but that is the simplest explanation and the one I know is true. Until I learn all their names and faces and personalities though, there just isn't much I can do about it. Interesting.

The doctor left a few weeks ago mad about something and there is no medic here now. The littlest kids have some crazy kind of rash that looks aweful and it's hard to know what it might be and so you want to comfort them but kind of you don't want to touch them. I just figure that whatever it is must be curable and if I get it I will get cured also. It might just be heat blisters but it sure seems severe. Right now all the little ones are being given antibiotics every day with their morning teeth brushing and I have to wonder if that is mean to be the case or if they were on a cycle of them when the doctor left and this is the result of a miscommunication. Or are they actually fed antibiotics everyday? That can't be good. And one of the middle aged girls just went to town with heb B and there isn't money to inoculate the other kids so they just take their chances.

I am here to learn and it is really interesting to see what happens when your resources start to dry up and your volunteers quit coming and your kids are sick and you can't afford to help them. Even if the ranch starts with two kids and never gets bigger than ten I realize how incredibly unfair it is to promise to take care of someone and then not be able to. I'm sure they are still probably better off than they would be without this place here at all but it's a little heart breaking. It is also inspiring to do your very best and be gentle with yourself when all that you can do isn't enough. To not own the guilt of knowing better.

So good and bad, just like expected. I think I chose well to come here. It definitely feels more like the type of experience I was hoping for than living in Peru did. Not that I would trade it – I wouldn't, I'm just grateful to be here now and I'm grateful that in December I will be headed to the mountains where I will need a blanket and maybe a sweater.

I hope you are all well,

oh yeah, I haven't investigated yet but a couple of people have written asking if I am in the mudslide areas and I am not. I don't know where they are and when I'm done here I will get on the internet and take a look at the news but I am safe.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

tomorrow it begins

I'm excited to get to casa guatemala tomorrow and see how everything is. I have been given the assigment of my group - 7-12 year old girls. That should be fun. I think I would have probably chosen younger kids if I had been given a list but I think this will be fun. Old enough to teach cards to. And read longer books to. I'm hoping that Rio Dulce town has a book store so that I can get some. I would like to introduce reading a chapter before bed each night. I think it will help with my Spanish reading skills which are actually pretty poor and hopefully will be fun for them. Maybe we can take turns. I am just so curious about what it will be like.

It sounds like I will overlap with the volunteer on her way out for a day or two so can get some tips and tricks I hope.

The bugs are pretty bad but I'm not minding them as much as I was afraid I would. The only ones that really get me are bottle flies. I am really allergic to them. Anytime I get bitten an area of about 5 square inches swells up and gets really really itchy. I know it's them because they leave an orange-ish spot where the bite is and then I know that a few aweful days are coming. I'm hoping that I will start to develop some immunity to them.

So a couple of hours up the river tomorrow and the new chapter begins.

Traveling has been good. I definitely haven't liked Punta Gorda or Livingston as much as the other places I've been. They have an unfortunate combination for sure. Port towns are always a little dodgy. Border towns are always a little dodgy. Add tourists to that mix and everything comes out a little extra dodgy. Everyone knows they will never see you again so they better get what they can while you're here so you just have to keep a little extra watch. It isn't bad by any stretch, but I'm just as glad to head out in the morning.

I don't know what the internet situation will be at casa guatemala but hopefully I'll be able to check in again soon.


Monday, August 30, 2010

some days are like that

I must start by saying it is so hot. I can't believe it. Whew. No fan, no breeze. **(next morning) There was an amazing amazing storm last night which cooled everything off enough to get a couple of hours of sleep and today is overcast and cloudy, which, while making it more muggy at least cuts some of the heat and I'll take it! I forgot about those storms. They are so great.

On the other, more exciting hand, I am in a Garufina family's house in Belmopan. I was trying to go to a hostel that I understood from the Internet was close to here so I got to the bus station and asked the taxi driver if he knew where it was and he didn't so we called the number from the web page and the lady gave him directions and we ended up at a house in Belmopan, not a hostel on the river on a farm that I was expecting. The old woman said that the farm is about forty-five minutes away and belongs to her son so why don't I just stay here tonight and go tomorrow? So I said, “you have rooms?” and she said “yes” and there was a gringo sitting in the living room so I thought, “cool, I don't care, I just want to sleep somewhere after being on the go since five o'clock this morning” So I came in. It turns out that it isn't a hostel at all. It's a family's house. One of the daughters is the dean of students at the university and some kids from Ohio are here doing their student teaching so they were staying here for a few days while they worked out a house to live in, which they left for tonight because a bunch of family came to town and needed the beds. They invited me to eat with them and we sat and chatted about everything for hours and hours and they are amazing fascinating wonderful people. And now I am in a bed in the hallway and there is no way I'm ever going to sleep, it's so hot. And the neighborhood dogs are barking up a storm and it's all so great anyway. I expected to just travel through Belize just cause but didn't expect much of it and it has already turned into one of my favorite traveling moments.

The whole day has been great. I thought I was going to split this day of traveling into two days because one of the things on the list that didn't quite get obtained was a time piece with an alarm on it so I didn't have any way of waking up early enough to get the whole day done in one. So I got the bright idea that maybe if I left the air conditioning in my room at the condo on all night I would get cold early in the morning and wake up to turn it off and sure enough I woke up at five o'clock. Sweet! I wasn't at all sure that would work.

I headed off the couple of miles to the highway to try to flag down a bus. It was just starting to get light as I was walking so I could see but the sun wasn't out yet making a hot mess of the walk. Got to the highway and without too much delay was able to flag down a combi van and ride to Tulum. From Tulum there was a bus leaving for Chetumal in about twenty minutes so I got a smoothie and onto the bus with me. Arrived in Chetumal not sure what I would find in the way of buses going to various places so at that point I thought I might even head over to Flores Guatemala and head south from there if that's which bus was leaving. At the first class bus station there was a bus leaving for Corozal in about three hours and I vaguely remembered something about chicken buses going from somewhere else in town more often so I got in a cab and asked him to take me there. Luckily one left about fifteen minutes later and we went off to cross the border. I had about two hundred pesos with me and the bus ride was going to be two fifty so I changed out a twenty dollar bill which was just about two hundred and fifty pesos. So with that I paid the bus and wondered what I was going to do with this extra couple hundred pesos in my wallet. Well at the border I ended up having to pay an exit tax that I didn't think I was going to have to based on either misunderstood information from the guy stamping my passport into Mexico or a really insistent corrupt guy stamping my passport out of mexico. Either way, the exit fee was the two hundred pesos I had in my pocket. Just right!

The bus drove over to the Belize entry checkpoint and I kept talking to the passport stamper in Spanish and she kept talking to me in English til I remembered that they speak English in Belize so we had a laugh and off I went. The bus driver even changed CDs while we were in customs to and English one which made me laugh. Got to Corozal and had to wait just about a half an hour for a bus to Belize City. In Belize City I kept getting elbowed out of the way for the buses to Belmopan – one filled up so fast I didn't even try then the next one I ended up standing and thinking I was going to stand for a couple of hours but was just going to live with it but the bus driver said everyone had to sit but there was nowhere to sit so I had to get off the bus. Luckily, the bus next to it which wasn't going to Belmopan a minute ago changed it's mind and decided it was going there after all. So I was one of the last people on that bus and it was crowded and hot but then since it was originally a local bus everyone got off straight away and it was smooth sailing and comfortable all the way to Belmopan. Bob Marley's Legend at full blast and all.

In each town I only decided where to go next, not sure how the next place would pan out and I ended up getting a really long way today without any big mishaps and ended up at this nice family's house. It was a perfect day of well prepared with no plan. I had done a lot of internet reading and map looking ahead of time to see what kinds of options there might be so that I could always have a few options for the next bus out and it just worked out perfectly.

I think I've gotten better at this game.

Off to the farm hostel after all tomorrow then south to Punta Gorda and over to Livingston and up the river to Rio Dulce. I think.

Friday, August 27, 2010

just a lucky so and so


I am in Akumal,  Mexico which is a few hours south of Cancun along the Caribbean coast and it's beautiful. My friends Scott and Doreen own a condo here and offered to let me stay in it for a few days, what a treat! I am sitting in the living room which is on the beach overlooking the bay of blue blue water. In a bit I'm going to explore the condo a little more to see if there is snorkeling gear somewhere.

I got in later last night than I expected to and the bus just dropped me off on the side of the highway so I was really unsure about what to do, especially after not sleeping and traveling all day. Not the ideal situation for being able to think. With a stroke of luck, I decided to head over the overpass toward the ocean even though town was on the other side. There was a guy with a bicycle passing and so I asked him if he knew where the Iguana condos were and he said "oh, you must be Sra Doreen's friend, I work there!" whew. talk about lucky. Anyway he walked me over to the taxi stand because he said it was much too far to walk after a full day of traveling, especially in the dark. I was so grateful to him when it was about a twenty-five minute taxi ride. He also called the guy working the office to say "don't leave, she's on her way" because they were just closing up for the night. So I got here and didn't have to wonder what on earth I was going to do at the front step of a closed up building late at night a few miles down a dark winding road. So yay for the right place at the right time with some helpful people.

I remembered that it would be hot and muggy but I don't think there is any way to actually remember what that feels like. How hot it really is. I'm not sure that I would advise to anyone to head to Southern Mexico in August, kind of a silly thing. But being right on the ocean with a breeeze and air conditioning in the bedroom to cool it down before sleeping make it perfect.

i haven't figure out yet how to transfer pictures from my camera onto this computer (geoff put the umbutu operating system on so I have to learn everything all over again) but I'm sure I'll figure it out before too long and post some of the condo and the bay.

I am also of course finding myself deciding that even though I get to get rid of a bunch of stuff in my backpack at the orphanage, I'm not willing to travel anymore with how heavy it is so I'm ditching a bunch of stuff here. I wonder how many times I will have to go out into the world before I finally learn that lesson. Maybe not too many more.

So I'm here, I'm safe, I'm happy and I'm relaxed. I'm also really looking forward to getting to the orphanage and wont be surprised if I find myself ditching the plan of staying here until Monday and just getting on a bus headed South.I've changed the Yucatan tour plan for going straight south through Belize and taking a ferry to Livingston, Guatemala and then a boat a couple of hours upriver to Rio Dulce and casa-guatemala.


 this is the view from the living room of the condo

 the dawning of a new day and a new trip, beautiful and perfect

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

moving piles

I'm sitting here moving piles of things around in my room and on computers and hard drives and thinking about taking off.

After getting laid off I decided to simply pull my trip up to now and shorten it rather than spending all my saved money living here and then have no money to go a the allotted time. It's abrupt, but it is really working out. I am enjoying the getting ready process immensely. It's much easier this time around and spring seems like it's just around the corner and then I'll be back.

I'm flying into Cancun then bussing over to Merida and down through San Cristobal and Palenque which is one of my all time favorite ruins to this day and I've been to a bunch of them since then, so I'm excited to see it again. Then headed down to a river a bit inland from the Caribbean coast to spend some time with these folks - . It seems a lot like the ranch I have in mind so I'm really interested to spend a few months hanging out there and learning what I can. My friend Kent plans to head to San Pedro on Lake Atitlan in December and my friend Matt is headed to Antigua for new year's so I will head over and check out those kids when they get there and do some visiting then see what happens. I suspect I'll head home in April so there is another nice chunk of time after visiting with those guys to do something cool.

I fly out early in the morning on the 26th and we're having a party on the evening of the 20th. Please please come. If you haven't seen an invite in some other arena, then contact me - and I'll get you info.

hasta Mexico,

Monday, June 14, 2010

catching up

It's been a long time. I didn't want to write about coming home and the struggles I was having because it made me a little embarrassed since people are signed up for stories about adventures, not struggles. No matter where you go in the world, no matter what adventure you have, what weird food you eat, I think there is no place you can go that is stranger than back home.

I have now made it into the next phase. The getting ready to leave again phase. Some of the struggles of coming home are still with me. I'm still kind of awkward in conversations. Finding the balance between sharing experiences and being 'that traveler' who talks all the time about being somewhere else. Finding how it fits to be back here. Here has changed, I have changed, the prior slot that I fit into doesn't serve anymore. Carving out a new niche has been difficult. The things that I missed, that I just wanted to come home to didn't exist anymore. Well, they do, they just look different and it took me a bit of time to find them. A realization that sometimes we travel because when you're having a shit day in Peru, you're kind of proud of it. "Look at me, I'm experiencing things, I'm having a shit day in Peru." But when you're having a shit day at home, it's just a shit day, you know? Makes you want to get back out on the road. But I think it's a good realization. You're still you and your life is still your life anywhere you go. Good and bad days happen.

At this point it's looking like Guatemala to begin with. It looks like I will have company leaving the country again this time. I am glad about that. It's a whole lot more fun to at least begin your adventures with someone else. Get the hang of a new country with someone at your shoulder. How long we travel together will be totally up in the air, but I enjoy having someone to plan the beginning with. The agreement is to leave Portland and arrive in San Pedro together, however that happens.

We have agreed to leave Portland together the day after Christmas and start heading south. There are lots of ways that could look. He kind of wants to drive his RV down but we think that will be too expensive finally. But maybe some other vehicle. We are looking at bussing all the way through Mexico. Flying down - where is the best option has proven an interesting conversation. I would rather go to Cancun cause it's cheapest to fly there and then just bus down, he did that last year and would rather take a different route. It's fun to be having all of these conversations with someone here. Trying to figure if we will make good traveling companions or not. The option that I am really hoping for is that his step dad has a sailboat and is talking about sailing down. I would really really like that. Whether or not the plans come to fruition, they are a fun part of the journey. I used to be all about not planning anything, now I have decided that I like the planning. I am just not attached to any of it actually happening according to the plan.

I could still just end up in Zimbabwe.

The long term goal still exists. There is still a ranch that lives in my imagination and my dreams. The beauty of an imaginary ranch is that there are no space constraints and no funding worries so it is still growing in my mind. No idea gets said no to yet. It is still the fundamental mission from whence all work and ideas flow. I have a list of useful humans that grows as I move around the world. Expect an email in 8 years or so inviting you to drop everything and move to Central America and help build the ranch. I am still going out into the world to do my best to get smart enough to make it the best place it can be. I'm still excited about it.

I am so grateful for the support that I receive from the people in my life. These dreams and adventures would never be possible without a gaggle of folks willing to support my ass. Give me places to live, love me even when I can't figure out who I am. Help me find work. Tell me that I can do it. I know very well that this is not the solo adventure it looks like sometimes. I am humbled that you find me worth it and knowing this gets me through sometimes with an amount of grace that I wouldn't have alone.

I look forward to what this next adventure brings. I am hoping to dig my teeth into somewhere for a longer time. Really get a feel for what it's like to help out at an org. for long term. There is a place on a river in the jungle in Guatemala really similar to what I'm looking at doing but on a much larger scale. They started in 1977 so I'm really curious to visit there and hope that I love it and end up staying for a while. I think there could be a lot to learn from it.

So, starting to get excited again. Looking forward to summer as only Oregon can give it. Looking forward to enjoying the next six months and looking forward to getting back on the road. Everybody start making travel plans for Central America next year!