Friday, August 21, 2009

Final Thoughts About My Quest

I've been home in Brooklyn for three days now, just enough time to digest everything before I leave for San Francisco in the morning.

It's good to be back with my friends and my family again. The trip lasted only fifteen days, but I still haven't really adjusted back to NYC living yet. I also noticed that I am craving carbs more than ever (anyone reading this who was there or is still there will know what I mean!) I also miss cooking my pasta dish for so many people and seeing them really enjoying what I made for them. (Maybe that's just an Italian thing, I don't know...)

I will always be amazed of this one thing in particular; that the children at the shelter constantly have volunteers coming in and going out of their lives, yet they handle it so well. The ability to have such an attachment to someone, to be open enough to hug and kiss them, play with them, and want to know everything about them, with the knowledge that they probably won't be in your life for very long, is something I still have not learned how to do too well. That truth makes me cry a little when I think about it. One of the bravest things one can do is to learn that no one is going to be there forever, and that we need to just enjoy the moments that we do have together on this earth.

To have the strength to let go of the people we grow attached to in our lives, whether we've known them our entire lives or for two weeks, is one of the most admirable characteristics a human being can cultivate.

As for the rest of me, I feel as if I know myself even less than I did before I left. I thought I had a lot of things figured out already, only to return with the realization that I really don't know much of anything at all. And there is so much more to learn.



Sunday, August 16, 2009

My last night in Guatemala

I'm writing this from the Funky Monkey Internet Cafe' in Antigua. My two new friends, Anna and Jess, just left a few hours ago. Tomorrow morning I leave for the airport at 9 AM. I'm feeingl sad right now. My journey is coming to an end so quickly and I feel as if my time here was far too short. There was so much more I could have done to contribute and I don't feel as if I did enough to make a difference in anyone's life. Actually, I feel as if those I came in contact with touched my life and inspired me more than I did them. But maybe that's the way it was supposed to be.

I'm already missing the kids at the shelter right now, especially sweet little Blanca, Dulce and Oliver. The kids gave me a really beautiful good-bye card, sang a song to me and I high-fived all of them.

One of the last activities we did with them was to have them trace and color in outlines of their hands for the United Planet lavaderia. I was very happy that we were able to make that happen (Rebecca, try to remember to send me a photo of them when they´re up on the wall!)

Antigua is a really nice little town. It's also full of tourists, so it's a very different vibe from Xela. It's actually a little too touristy for me, personally, but it was also a lot easier to buy all the gifts I needed to buy for people from my trip. I found an obsidian pendant of my Mayan horoscope deity, K'at (See earlier blog post for explanation!)

I will write more when I get home on Tuesday, but I do want to thank all the wonderful people I met and who went out of their way to make sure I was safe, happy and well fed (Marlo!)
I am also incredibly grateful to all the people who translated for me so I could survive as a Vegan in Guatemala!!

I'm going to post the rest of my photos now.

I wish everyone health happiness and to all the volunteers I worked with, less carbs and more proteins! LOL!



Thursday, August 13, 2009

actualización, 13 de agosto, 2009

Today is Thursday already, which means tomorrow is my last day in Xela. I leave at 7 AM on Saturday morning for a bus to Antigua for two days and then I fly home on Monday morning. This has all gone too fast. I feel as if I´m just getting settled in here, but now I have to leave. And this place has really grown on me, especially the people I´ve met...but I knew that was bound to happen.

Yesterday I started the day at the shelter again. I read with Oliver, or should I say, he read TO ME. He helped me with my pronounciation. Those kids have taught me more than I have been able to teach them. Afterward, Keila and I started to help squeeze oranges for juice with the women in the kitchen. About 30 minutes into it, we decided it was time for the shelter to own an electric juicer., so we ran to the dispensa and bought one. Okay, so maybe that was a very typical American thing to do, but hey, we got those oranges juiced in a third of the time it would have taken us! I think the women kind of liked the juicer too. :)

I also wanted to mention that the shelter coordinator, Ariela, has been wonderful throughout my stay. She´s a very sharp, intelligent and very patient lady and her Spanish is AMAZING. It was great working with her. Everyone a the shelter was great to work with, actually; Keila, Anna, Rebecca, and the kids; Blanca, Oliver, Bryan, Daniel, Antonio, Leslie, Dulce, Willy and Chappito. I will miss them all.

One of the coolest experiences I had was a chance meeting yesterday in El Parque Central. Marlo ran inro one of her fellow poets, who is also a Sociologist, teacher and a great enthusiast of the Mayan culture. WE went for coffee and he read my horoscope according to the Mayan calendar. My sign is
K'at represents instinct and originality, but also the tangle
of life, the things that trap us. It's a force that connects people or
elements to get things done and a filter that separates the bad from the
good. The seed symbolizes the possibility of new life. At its essence, it
is a fire that consumes, the absence of physical, mental, emotional or
spiritual freedom.

Characteristics: Those born under K'at are sincere leaders and possessors
of a strong inner energy. When they learn to control their emotions, they
can accomplish whatever they set out to do.

That sounds about right to me!

Today I once agaion made a gigantic lunch at the school and it was great. El profesor joined us, as did some new students, most of the teachers and Marlo´s dog (as always!) It was a great success and I ate two human´s worth of pasta, sauce, fresh chapatis and Marlo´s tofu! Outstanding. I don´t go hungry here, that´s for sure.

Afterwards, I took a weaving class in the traditional Central American style, which is known in the U.S. as Backstrap Weaving. (you´ll see why in the photos). I was pretty horrible, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. At least my Spanish lesson went better. Palmenia and I played Scrabble, but we got into a serious discussion about the indigenous peoples of Guatemala, which was a lot more fun than the Scrabble, which I almost beat her anyway. ha ha ha

Tomorrow I´m helping Anna do a presentation at the shelter about Easter in the U.S. I think we´re having the kids make clay bunnies and eggs, etc. Should be fun. We´re also having them make some drawings to put up in La Lavanderia. My last day with those kids. Expecting to cry...

Time for dinner now. I know Señora Catalina is making me black beans, because I asked for them!

Muchos besos!


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More photos


Hay mucho para escribir!

Sorry I haven´t been able to write in the past few days, but I´ve been overwhelmed with so many things! (And they´re all good things, so no worries.)

Just a thought; there´s something really nice about walking out your door on a cool, sunny morning and seeing a volcano...

On Wednesday morning at the school (Kei-Balam) we had an ancient Mayan ceremony. It was amazing. I made an offering of red and white candles (red for love,for me, and white for life, for my friend Roseann, whose Dad isn´t doing too well lately. I hope it helped.) I have photos, but no time to upload now. I will later!

The big lunch I made at the shelter went to so well that I´ve been requested to do it again at the school this Thursday for the students and the teachers! I guess it´s the best way I can contribute here, everyone appreciates good food. And mealtimes are more than just about the food. It´s the time people learn about one another and talk about life. My Spanish teacher, Palmenia, is THE BEST. She´s 100% Mayan and we talk about the culture and the history of the Mayan peoples all the time. If only I had studied my Spanish as well as I did my history and culture of Guatemala, I´d be a pro by now (or at least not getting lost so much!)

On Saturday I went to Totonicapan with one of the teachers and my friend Keila. She´s from L.A., but her family is Guatemalan and they don´t live far from here, so she´s visiting them while we both volunteer at the shelter. She is one cool chica.

On Sunday morning I went to Parque Central, (all by myself without getting lost, thank you), to write.

There was a really nice fiesta in the park right outside the cemetary, so Marlo, her perro, Puppy and I sat there most of the day enjoying music and eating a lot of stuff I probably shouldn´t have eaten, but did anyway. It was a lovely day. They all are, so far.

I have to leave for the shelter now, (we´re making clay figures of our favorite animals today), but I will write more later, I promise. I miss you all!



Thursday, August 6, 2009


Well, at least I gave it a shot, right? Despite the huge bottle of anti-altitude sickness pills my doctor gave me before I left, I still couldn¨t get any firther than about a third of the way up the volcano trail. I had a pretty heavy pack to carry, for one. Plus, I had only been in Xela for two full days, so my lungs clearly had not made the adjustment to the thin air here. I try to look on the bright side; at least I was able to get back when I got sick. Last time it happened while en route to India and I was stuck to the floor of the plane like I was on one of those Round Up rides at a carnival, with no way to escape.
It was still pretty amazing to be an the volcano, see Xela from that eight and see a beautful full moon, so I´m not crying (that much.) Plus I got to talk to one of the people who runs the tour company, she has some amazing stories and was kind enough to stay with me the whole time until I was picked up in a truck to get back to town.

Yesterday afternoon was something really special because I finally got to do some work at the shelter with the children of the women who are staying there. I lugged a bunch of stuff from the States with me (thank you Vic for the pipe cleaner idea!), so we taught them how to makes flowers.
They were all really excited about the activity. One child, Oliver, is one of those kids that will immediately run up to you and hug you without knowing you very well. He was the second new buddy I´ve made here. And he´s a real character too, I tell you.
I somehow because official hoja maker (i.e. leaf cutter), because I made one for my own flower, so everyone came up to me for their own. I have to admit that I liked the attention. lol
There is one little girl, Blanca, whose photo I will post below (along with Oliver´s, of course), who was really enthusiastic about the project. And she made beautiful entire bouquet of them. And what a sweetheart. I can´t wait to see here again tomorrow when I make lunch for the mothers and children.
Once again I must say that everyone is taking great care of me. I don´t even cry when I get lost (lol), and I´ve made a few friends from both U.P. and some others who are just passing through on their own personal journeys, from really young high school kids to people in their sixties. And everyone pretty much knows one another and does activities together. I like this world I might be well-suited for the nomad lifestyle myself. Traveling and getting to know people is a huge education in itself and I think it´s possible I´ve learned far more this way than in any classroom. Plus, I´m a dyed-in-the-wool Saggitarius, we are travel junkies.
I´m meeting Marlo soon at the school soon and I´ll try to convince her to find a cooperative market for me to buy some goods at. I haven´t bought anything except for postcards so far, but I really have the desire to buy crafts from the local Mayans. By the way, not only are they beautiful people, but their clothing is gorgeous and they can balance just about ANYTHING on their heads. AND carry a baby on their back at the same time. Incredible. I love this place.
XO val