Friday, May 29, 2009

travels & other things in more detail.

I skipped through a couple of insignificant things along the course of our journey throughout Guate. A lot of the time spent traveling in Guate was in buses, a quick overview 
Guatemala City-Flores (8hours)
Flores-Tikal (1 hour)
TIkal-Poptun (3 hours)
Poptun-Coban (4 hours)
Coban-Fray Bartolome de las casas (4 hours)
Fray-Guatemala City (3 hours)
Guatemala City-Solola and then on to Panajachel (4 hours)
Panajachel-Guatemala City (4.5 hours...bus driver got lost)

Lots of time eh?
So if you want an idea of what the roads were like anywhere except from Guate city to Flores picture Lake shore drive's potholes, alright now multiply those potholes by 10 and then give or take two or perhaps three dozen sharp curves/turns and moments that would give your grandmother a heart attack. Not to mention the heat that made me worry Julian might pass out and  just when you feel that the bus won't be able to accomodate anyone else it swallows up one more at the next stop. These stops are done without any sort of order, the same attendant who collects the bus fare sticks his head out the double doors announcing the destination and anyone who appears to hail a cab hops on. The dust would constantly creep into our bus via the six inch windows every passenger would leave open and the fumes created a horrendous sting in your eyes. But this made for a more precious appreciation of the calm Lago Atitlan or the ability to lay atop the cool sheets of the rundown hotel that didn't think of installing curtains in the shower, as a result the bathroom would flood whenever we'd want to take a quick shower. 

I got in earlier this afternoon into Ft. Lauderdale and was welcomed by Florida's humidity and my mother's cries. We arrived at my grandmother's house where I finally felt at home and an odd feeling of "what's next?" But it all went away as I started to rid my pack of the dirty clothes and souvenirs (mostly coffee) that filled it. My first call was to my dad who started rambling details about my Vietnam trip and hiring a tour guide and hanging out with an aunt. In other news, it seems I have won (thanks to your help perhaps) the USFT position of industry liaison :) Which also means a trip to Nicaragua in late July! 

Sometimes, okay most of the time, I see myself wanting to do it all. Participate in helping with the green fee and sustainability council, helping to plan this event with this org, coordinating the real food summit at Loyola in the fall, throwing kick ass events that draw huge crowds, being involved with STJC and USFT equally now that I've committed myself to steering committee type positions, and maybe even date a bit in the beautiful city I call home. This upcoming school year I'll also be having about 14 roommates living in community. History has shown that I tend to have a breaking point where I'll feel burned out and what not...but maybe I know better and this time I'll balance it out. This past spring semester I pulled off a decent social life and involvement in extra curricular activities. I'm also counting on a great support team in the Oxfamily and elsewhere, so it'll surely work out. 

I'm going back and forth here, be patient with me...
There are still plenty of places I would have loved to have visited in Guatemala, so if you ever find yourself wanting to make your way down to Central America, I'm there. I need a week's notice unless you're planning on a random roadtrip. There are also plans to hit up Spain again, I've not spent adequate time there says a friend, Alanita says they're closing down the pyramids next year so that trip needs to happen soon, and I eventually want to hit up South America. Also, I'm starting to think I need to explore the states some more with only twenty or so down it might be a good idea to roadtrip the rest. Lovely, no? I've been wanting to for a while, just waiting for the right person/people/time to come along. It is becoming a tad easy to get tired of organizing it all and wanting things to just fall into place. 


Tuesday, May 26, 2009


is an angel from Jersey who is currently attending university in upstate NY. He stands out in Guatemala and I´m almost tempted to go around introducing him as my bodyguard, he´s quite fit & pale with clear eyes.
We met about 5 years ago during a high school retreat in NY, both of our schools were Marist and I could have fallen in love with him if were weren´t so damn similar. By similar I mean we look for the same type of partner and are generally deep quiet thinkers. So we kept in touch and we have both been amazing at answering each other´s 3am crisis phone calls. We met up two or three years ago and hadn´t seen each other since. It was during one of these 3am phone calls that I convinced him (within 40 min) that he should join me in my travels to Guatemala, which was about a month ago and he booked his ticket that same evening!
Anyways, I hadn´t really realized how similar our situations were until we started talking during our eight hour bus ride from Guatemala City to Flores that my mother deliberately told me not to do (perdon madre). We had both recently ended a three year relationship and were internally withering away in a sense. But onwards. I had a difficult time relaxing for an entire day without doing anything productive whatsoever in a nice posada by Flores with a great view of the lake...have you ever tried doing that? An entire day. Of nothing!
Don´t be fooled, it´s quite difficult...
So we went from Guatemala City to Flores then Tikal (had a magnificent workout climbing ten flights of stairs only to then realize I was afraid of heights). After Tikal we went to Coban for a coffee plantation tour. Oh! Highlight of our trip so far!! Has definitely been staying at Finca de Ixobel, or as Julian refers to it ¨hippy heaven.¨ They have bungalows, dormitory style bunks, and treehouses! Most of their food is organic-ish and grown on their 250 acres where they have two dozen horses, geese, and parrots galore. The establishment functions on an honor system, so you can grab anything you want and write it down in a little notepad with your assigned page! So imagine chilling on a comfy hammock with a guide book in hand, a warm breeze, a cup of coffee by your side and some cool fellows playing guitar. Heaven eh? It´s also a meeting point for all sorts of travelers, there were Israelis, Dutch, Americans, all sorts of people. This was my first time doing any sort of ¨happy hour¨as well, with screwdrivers at 8Q=$1. I had very limited amounts of this whereas the birthday boy did not, he had a lovely celebration too.
We´re currently in Panajachel, a touristy city with a cool vibe and perfect for an evening walk post dinner and e-mail....toodles.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

fin y principios.

ABI (Alternative Break Immersion) is officially done today. We met with the United Nations for a lovely chat about human rights and the political situation unfolding in Guate. Last night we also visited el Centro Pastoral de Atencion al Migrante (a migrant house) that is able to do its work thanks to the Catholic Church. Since Monday we have met with the Forensic Anthropological Foundation, la Unidad de Proteccion de defensoras de derechos humanos (human rights defenders organization), and visited the police archives. Visiting the migrant house was an interesting experience, I helped out with the cooking so I didn´t get the chance to chat with the migrants who had just arrived from the states. In the evening during our reflection Amy and Alanita spoke about the stories they had heard: one of the workers was held for three days in an interrogation room with his arms and feet tied and had only juice to drink the entire time. A couple of people were instantly effected after hearing this and the tears ensued. Which reinforces that long known fact that there is something deeply flawed about how we treat each other. One of the great things I think that came out of this, out of being charged indirectly for what our country does, was inspiration to move and change. Alanita mentioned she might want to go into this issue since she´s thinking of pursuing her phd in clinical psych. We had a packed schedule and it wasn´t the best organization-wise, but it was a great experience. Part of me regrets not being completely there, I was in a sort of funk that caused me to feel like crawling up in a ball (which happened only once thank goodness). Besides that, I´m like five year old jumping up and down for some chocolate soy ice cream eagerly awaiting Julian´s arrival tomorrow. I´ve roughtly sketched out a travel plan and some great sights in this beautiful country.

Father Abraham questioned us as we were getting ready to leave the migrant house, and thanked us for coming then said what are you going to do about it when you get back?
Nobody was really able to respond and I was still in my ridiculous funk but overheard him.
I feel like there´s been a lot of pressure and broke down at one point with everything that we´re asked to do and work for when we get back. But I realize that...

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

-Oscar Romero

Juntos somos fuertes :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pura Vida.

Living simplistically.

People here don´t have much and yet still have these enormous smiles on their faces
that seem to withstand it all.

The days here go by so slowly, which is great and fine but a part of me wants to jump up and get moving already. Alanita and I have agreed this is a radically different trip than any other we have made because of the setting and the intentions. There is no set itinerary for what we´ll be doing every hour of every day here in San Lucas Toliman so that has bugged us both a little bit. Pero no hay apuro, estamos en Guatemala (dice Peccles)

Being here has in a way made me feel a little bit healthier...there are so many moments and oppornities for personal reflection. This has resulted in a radically productive personal journal entry which lists goals for all of the organizations I´m going to be involved with in the fall.

But for now I´m looking foward to and living in the present and the next thing I´ll be learning about this community.

Hasta luego.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Hola. Adios.... is the repeated greeting we get from little kids in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala.
As expected, people here are generally friendly.
I gotta make this quick, so here we go.
3 cups of coffee, one at every meal. Coffee here is delicious, again as expected!
We worked yesterday and today by helping to move bricks. Yep, bricks.
They´re going to be building a couple of structures since coffee production this year has doubled to help facilitate with the cleaning and sorting of beans.
We have met with different community members from the mission here who have been kind enough to give us a few tours. Tours included la comunidad de San Andres, Casa de Cafe-Casa de Miel, the various projects that the parish has helped with including a Women´s Center, and a Reforestation project. I´ll be going into more detail about these later on.

We´re staying at a local family owned hotel that has been quite beautiful and conveniently located near the parish where we receive our meals. Other university groups from Rice and Marywood are also here, so they make for delicious conversations at times.
As a group we´ve slowly come to grow closer and laugh together and make fun of Patricio (our coordinator).

Being here, feels like being home.

There is no obvious violence going on, although we haven´t had much opportunity to go exploring at night since ít´s been pouring. Only violence I have witnessed was the stupid mistake of leaving my unbreakable water bottle behind, the one with 20 different
stickers on it :(

Cool quotes I have overheard and jotted down these past couple of days

¨The one who has love, courage, and wisdom moves the world¨
¨Si no respetamos a la tierra no nos respetamos a nosotros mismos¨
¨Ser un amigo a la tierra y ser un amigo de la humanidad¨ asi es como se describio Don Torribio

I have witnessed a lot of projects and good things that have been successful thanks to the Parish here at San Lucas. This past year my faith has been very confusing and I had some trouble putting into words what it is exactly I believe in. So being here has in a way made me see how great organized religion can be for a town and its people.

So we´ll see, right?

Monday, May 11, 2009


I have been food crazy these past couple of days. 
Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants. 
Thanks Michael Pollan. 
Fruits as well, I've been on a fruit high. Maybe since that first bowl of fruit salad a week or two ago in the morning. Hmm...strawberries, mango, orange, and a couple of other delicious delights.
So a quick stop at a supermarket and glance at the packaged candy bars is just enough to make my insides shiver. 

The other evening I went movie hopping but just before that I got a phone call from my dad. My uncle from Germany had a heart attack while he was visiting in Miami. His daughter, my cousin, is about my age. They had a pretty close relationship. He had a serious face, very much the opposite of my other uncle in Germany. A couple of times he would tease me and my vegetarianism, claiming there's nothing he can cook for me to eat. Imagine that. I am grateful that I got the opportunity to get to know him a little bit and spend some time with him. May he rest in peace. 

I'm all packed and ready to go. Whatever I may forgot, hopefully the 9 other fellow students will have :)
My mother is freaking out...and why exactly I really do not know. The fact that she is a hispanic mother, I am her child, and on top of that I'm a girl does not help I bet. I'll be accompanied just about every minute of every day while in Guate. There's this fear she's expressed constantly of Guate being a dangerous city and so far from a decent place to visit. Yes I know there is crime and violence and the like. 
Where's all this panic coming from? Thank you ABC, CBS, CNN, and every other letter in the alphabet news program. 
I am really eager though to visit this country even though it will be my third or fourth time there. Before I had always been dragged along with family for an event, a religious holiday (Semana Santa), or as a kid for one reason or another. This time I'll be doing an alternative break immersion (abi) with la universidad at San Lucas. We haven't really gotten a full itinerary of what we'll be doing which only worries me a little bit since I like to be prepared and know what's going on, at least 24 hours in advance people. 
Makes me wonder who the heck is organizing this trip (just kidding, I know I know we don't always have to know everything).

I was inspired earlier by T who is a fellow CHANGE leader. 
He is really crazy involved with the ONE Campaign and has been among 20 semi-finalists across the U.S. selected to go to Kenya and do awesome anti-poverty work or trainings. Anytime I catch up on what he's doing through some other method besides phone conversations I am stunned. It's people like him that make me really hopeful and again inspired to keep working. 

Oh, and CHANGE is a week long intensive training program in Boston hosted by Oxfam America (OA). It takes 50 college students from just about every state and educates them on different OA campaigns and about the organization itself. So you end up with 50 best friends. no lie.

Fun/Favorite travel quotes

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” - Mark Twain

It's a rough journey sometimes, if I want to travel with you...that kinda says something. Mostly that I just want to travel with you, get to know you, then figure out if I really enjoy spending time with you. Ha. But honest, waiting in lines, sitting on trains, figuring out directions, travel partners are tons of fun or at least they have that potential. It's all how you see things of course. One of my favorite things about the NPR series "This I Believe," if you haven't checked it out I strongly urge you to do so. 

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things - air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” - Cesare Pavese

YES! Oh the beauty of couchsurfing and trusting strangers to let you into their homes, allow them to prepare you wonderful meals, take you out and discover the city/town/village, and simply be a generous human.  I think my dad worries a little because of how trusting I am willing to be.  But I'd like to think I have a good idea of how to behave/act/think/react, what would you call that? Hmm...

Rosanna, you know what I'm talking about, don't you? Rosanna is the woman who knows me inside and out. She's a sweetheart but she's awful at keeping in touch, in reality we both are though. 
I'm grateful to have her in my life. 

Oh goodness, look at the time. Gotta get going. 


Friday, May 8, 2009


99% of my evenings are starting to turn into a routine. Clean up a little bit, e-mail a little bit, followed by some yoga, sorting through music while sipping cocoa mate (add some agave & soy, mmm deeelicious), cleaning up again, and close with some reading. 

I love this routine though, it makes me happy. 

So I went to "healing hour"and had an aura reading done earlier. Thanks to Kat-spot, she is the one who introduced me to the center where all this is performed...

During this "healing" session you sit in a chair while the 'healer' walks around you moving their hands, as if conjuring a spell, while you sit with your eyes wide open bewildered. But they're grounding you, supposedly making you feel closer to the earth and cleansing you of bad energies such as unhappy/unfriendly words directed at you. At least this is what one of the female healers told me right after mentioning I'm a natural as well as very clairvoyant. When I asked her to explain herself, she said I was a good judge of people and could instantly tell whether they had postive or negative energies. I brushed it off, others would just call that intuition. I had a total of four healders, the first and the last were the most interesting looking and provided for a cool experience. 

I have personally never had any sort of psychic reading or aura reading, though they have never ceased to fascinate me. So I figured why not and dove into it. The walls were naked white with only one of the walls decorated with a picture of the ocean, there was also a plant, and four mini flower vases from IKEA. Lined up against one side of the wall were three psychics, one woman on the far left, in the middle a man, and to his right a funny looking man who slightly resembled that tall guy (brother?) from Everybody Loves Raymond who had crayons and paper with him with different circles/layers. He ended up drawing my color on the different layers as well as a few notes. I sit down, they all look at me for a minute before closing their eyes and going on a "let's tell you a story about yourself through pictures we can imagine" journey. Which is totally fine by me! 

My only problem was I wanted to know who these people were just about the entire time I'm sitting there, the man in the middle (main psychic) and the woman closed their eyes the whole time. Coloring book guy had to keep them half open to color. I wonder where they started out doing this type or perhaps past time or even hobby. Did they have kids? The woman looked young but not young enough to go without having some lovely apartment with a dog. If I ever run into these people at a grocery store somewhere, what are you supposed to say? 

The first half hour was dedicate to the reading of the different levels then in the second half hour I could ask anything I wanted. Which sounds a lot cooler than it really is because how do you ask a bunch of psychics a question without coming off as stupid or naive? Instead I went the "can you expand on this aspect of my life" or "could you tell me what this could lead to?" it was strange. 

They were pretty spot on as far as pinning down my characteristics and tendencies. But that's all it felt like. They were just reading who I was through stories and pictures of different things. Even their answers were drawn out into long stories that could be a third as long and still deliver the same message. My communication professors would have been very disappointed. 

Not a big deal, just pretty cool you could say. 

Can you guess what color I was? 

check out a description of ORANGE auras 

taken from

"They have an inner urge to be creative, active and enjoy life to its fullest. They are also individual and independent and integrate physical and mental qualities. They enjoy the challenge and excitement of forming and shaping physical reality. Orange personalities love to imagine and plan strategies for their next adventure or project and then put those plans into action. They need to be involved in the actual working process and want to physically shape and form their own ideas. They have difficulty sitting back and letting other people do things for them."
(This last part is pretty accurate)

After my refreshing experience I took a long walk before deciding I did not want to be alone, ending up at a friend's place then deciding I probably should be alone. Odd, I know. But sometimes it takes a couple of awesome, cool people in an incredibly sweet apartment eating burgers to convince you that you should be on your own and not interrupting or invading this particular scenario. 

Two more days til Guate....
It hasn't really hit me yet, not til I start packing. Besides the work we'll be doing in San Lucas Toliman I'm really excited about traveling around with Julian. Long story short, Julian and I met during a high school retreat in Esopus, NY and pretty much bonded instantly. If we weren't so alike, we'd practically end up together. We both crave the same type of people, which is always interesting to look into when we are both dating someone. Anyways, I convinced him in less than an hour to come with me and buy his ticket one night when I couldn't sleep. This is why he's a cool friend, besides other important reasons. 

Oh, before I forget. My mom has gone to a psychic long ago and whenever she tells me about her sessions she always refers to the psychic as a psycho, which I think is pretty cute. 

Buenas noches. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


The past couple of weeks I've been going into nightowl extreme. 
I rarely get some shuteye before 3am and I'm kinda liking it. You get to hear the birds
chirping and the romantic sounds of the inebriated Polish men screaming at the dead of night. 

I have been able to get some more research in on Vietnam. 
On average about 30 people die everyday crossing the streets of Ho Chi Minh, according to Frommer's. 
Hmm.... shares the tales of women who have traveled alone and can hook me up with a 'mentor' in the city I will be visiting who could give me tips on what to do, what to avoid, etc. So one lady who visited Ho Chi Minh describes advice given to her at the hotel she was staying "What my hotel concierge told me is that, 'when it feels right you step out into the traffic and you keep walking'. Then he added, 'try not to step out in front of a bus that can't stop easily but don't worry, the scooter drivers will try at all costs not to hit you. The most important thing to remember is that once you get on to the road you can't stop half way; you must keep moving because that's what the drivers expect and they guide themselves accordingly.’"

At times I've thought about how crazy this idea was, thinking I would make it through in a country whose language is composed of six different tones. So depending on which tone is used "ma" can mean ghost, mother, which, tomb, horse, or rice seedling. 

I'm cheating. I'm expanding on other people's words, chewing them up to be inspired and create my own.  Let's do one more from Tuesdays with Morrie
"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning."

Here's my dilemma. I feel like I live a life full of meaning and I am happy doing the things I do. The problem is I have let my academic career rot. It's bad. This is a conversation I have had with several people, Pedro comes to mind, mostly because we find ourselves in the same shithole constantly when it comes to juggling good/fun/productive/meaningful work and academic work. Some advice he shared, imparted to him by N. Tuchman, was that Loyola does a great job of sparking a passion or curiosity in our community and makes it easy for us to be involved. At the same time we have to focus on our studies and in an attempt to get both done well end up doing a shitty job at both.  

Last night I lost all my contacts on my phone while I was playing around with it. My uncle gave it to me, it's a fancy touch phone and at first sight I knew it was bad news. It feels great though, to start with a blank first I was freaking out. But as I told the kid the other day "you have my number, if you want to call me then go ahead." Yet this still did not prevent me from creating another of those ridiculous fb groups entitled "I lost my phone contacts." There are lots of people out there I love and would want to stay in touch with even if they don't want to call me, having their number and that option is always a great thing. 

Although, from May 10-August 10 I will be free of my cellphone. No more text messages, voice mail, phone calls interrupting good times. You will not be able to call me asking me of my whereabouts. Ah. Can you imagine it? I am absolutely tickled. 

5 more days til Guatemala