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.