it’s cool to be alive

always forward, no regrets // [a semester away]

rewind: chacahua

It’s suddenly summer in Cuernavaca; Amina and I have been watching American movies and sweating through our clothes. Amina’s host family has this tiny brown daschund named Coco who runs everywhere and gets weird topoographical veins in his ears when he gets too excited. Since arriving in this city, I haven’t left the apartment. It feels okay. I’m fucking exhausted.

Last week we spent a few days in Chacahua, soaking up some very bright sun and swimming in the most perfect ocean I’ve seen in a while.  Chacahua’s way out– from Puerto Escondido it’s a microbus to Rio Grande, where we were bitten by ants and talked to a weird crackhead and then took a taxi about 15 minutes to where the lanchas leave. I’m not sure what that town was called, actually, aside from “where the boats leave”; we were there only briefly, but long enough to meet three very funny characters. The taxi driver dropped us at a small house right on the water, where the driver was promptly tipped by a serious-looking lady in a filthy apron. Stefan, Ramon and Roberto were already there, waiting for a few more bodies so we could fill up the lancha that’d take us to Chacahua. Ramon and Roberto were immediately identifiable as one of two things– either Not Mexican or Mexico City Hipsters. It was the skinny jeans and the Vans, really (and Ramon’s gauged ears). They’re both from Los Angeles, but Ramon is studying at UNAM in D.F. Roberto, his friend from home, was visiting for the week. They were doing about a destination a day, and spending their nights on overnight buses. They had recently acquired a hilarious accesory– Stefan, the anxious and inexplicable German with 7 pieces of luggage.

The lancha ride was fast, windy, and absolutely beautiful. The trip to Chacahua is about twenty minutes long, and most of it is spent winding between huge open green lagoons and slim mangrove tunnels, the powerboat hugging the turns in an almost-too-close kind of way. We arrived intact, our youthful boat driver fell in love with Amina, and then we gathered our things and wandered out to the beach– a balking Stefan in tow. All I wanted was to go swimming, and Roberto and Ramon were similarly chilled out. Priority one was a place to leave my shit, priority two was a beer and some fish tacos, and then  maybe later I would worry about a place to sleep. Stefan was in aggresive search of some woman whose name he couldn’t quite pronounce– “SIGNORA BORA” was how it sounded, and he said it over and over and over again. When Roberto suggested we just hang out at a palapa on the beach for a while and deal with Signora Bora later, Stefan announced that he was not a lemon to be squeezed.

In the end we all ended up at the same place– a long thatch roofed building like every other long thatch roofed building on the beach, with some open sand for tents and a few nylon hammocks. The shack at the far end of the building produced decent food (and very cold drinks) from before we woke up until after we went to sleep, and in exhange for our purchases there me and Mina slept in hammocks for free. It was about as idyllic as it gets, I think– wake up at sunrise, walk across the white sand to the blue water for a pre-breakfast swim (just a few waves, no seaweed, crystal clear), eggs and coffee, more swimming, reading time, fish and Coca-Cola for lunch, beach, beer, beach, dinner, beer, and then back to the hammock at a reasonable hour. Then we would repeat. The sunsets looked like Corona advertisements, men playing shirtless soccer in the sand as the sun turned scarlet and slipped down below the palm trees. We stayed for three days, I got a lovely tan, and we agreed to meet up with Ramon, Roberto, and their friend Becca in D.F. the next weekend.

One more Stefan story– in addition to a faded sun tattoo between his shoulderblades and an unshakable expression of confusion, Stefan liked to talk. His English was passable, but prone to bouts of total insanity– over dinner one night, while discussing his travels, Stefan made a declaration: “The worst thing that can happen is that you leave your body”. You mean, the worst thing that can happen is that you die? We asked. No, he said. The worst that can happen is that you leave your body. Over the course of the next 36 hours, he repeated this phrase at least a dozen times in baffling variety of contexts. I still have no idea what he was talking about. He disappeared the morning we left– wandered down the beach in his tight little swim trunks with a canvas bag over his shoulder. He shouted hasta luego, we shouted it back, and we never saw him again. It’s possible he’s still somewhere on the beach having a eurotrash vision quest.

Back to the States on Thursday for a weekend of wedding festivities in San Diego. A lot of fantastic things have happened on this trip, and when I think about my first few weeks in Guatemala it feels like a thousand years ago. But I’m pretty exhausted, now, and I’m ready to head back. I’ve been thinking a lot about my cell phone, and about familiar refrigerators and hot water from the faucet. Vamos a ver.

Filed under: mexico

mexico city, i love you

Yesterday on the charmingly scummy Mexico City Metro, a skinny man with an anxious voice got onto our car with a bag full of broken glass. Blue, green, and brown, he said “I HAVE FOUND THESE JEWELS ON THE STREET” and then he took off his shirt and lay his skinny body down on the broken glass. His right arm was in a very dirty sling. Then he got up and put his shirt back on and wandered down the aisle asking for money.

The metro costs two pesos. Instead of having automatic ticket machines like every other subway system I’ve ever been on in my entire life, D.F. uses real people– they perform the exact same action over and over again every single day. They give people a maximum of 8 pesos in change (you can only pay for your ticket with coins, and the highest coin is diez pesos) and they hand them their tickets, small paper tabs which are the only way to get on and off the trains. There are no flashy swipe cards and no sleek touch screens– there is just the surly lady gossiping on her cell phone and the surprisingly short line of scruffy teenagers at the taquilla.

I’ve been traveling with Amina for the past week or so. A friend of mine from college, she’s studying in Cuernavaca and got the week off for Semana Santa. It’s been wonderful to travel with a friend again; since Chiapas, I’ve been to Puerto Escondido, a small lagoon town called Chacahua, Oaxaca City, and D.F. I’ve also spent a remarkable number of hours on Mexico’s surprisingly functional (except for that one time we were 6 hours late) bus system. In the past week I have seen the following quality films on OCC buses: The Adventures of Milo and Otis, Kung Fu Panda, The Big White (it involved Robin Williams), Raise Your Voice, Mr. Bean Goes on Vacation (WORST MOVIE EVER), Conversations with God (a low budget evangelical film about a minister who becomes homeless and has to eat cheeseburgers out of the trash), and Disney’s recent remake of The Shaggy Dog (twice). My last bus will be the one I take back to D.F. on Thursday, and I can’t say I’m looking forward to the visual puke I’ll be enduring at the time. It turns out I have this rare and debilitating disease where I cannot look away from a television screen when it’s turned on. Not even when it’s Mr. Bean getting trapped in an outhouse while trying to hitch hike in the French riviera. Not even then.

I’ve been watercoloring a lot, and yesterday drank two of the best cups of coffee I’ve had in my entire life. The current fantasy is to move to Mexico City after graduating for a life of Latin American surrealist luxury, and possibly a stunningly hip Mexican boyfriend (kids from D.F. know their neon, I’m telling you). Amina and I will be locating some excellent people to live with in our excellent apartment, and possibly a nice cat. We’ll keep you updated.

Just one more thing– everyone in Mexico is in love. Kissing in public, hugging in public, nuzzling spectactularly in public, arms linked and hands in pockets and tongues waggling all over each other on street corners. Either there are more people in love here than there are in the United States, or, as Amina’s host sister Sara just suggested, aqui son un poco exobitionistas. You decide.

And finally, some not-safe-for-work YouTube action. I’ve heard it more times than I can count, and the video is epic. There’s a reason why this shit has almost 15,000,000 views.

Filed under: mexico

new country!

Coffee and mango and granola, a book, some internet… my life gets more liesurely with every passing day. In San Cristobal de las Casas now, staying with Ezra’s best friend Pete (who scored a Fullbright after graduating last year and has been in Chiapas teaching English ever since) and spending my days watching hippies wander around the plaza and eating tamales and ice cream. Pete has fun housemates– Ann and Dan (rhymes!) have been showin’ me around a little. Last night Ann introduced me to chalupas, which are not like the ones they sell at Taco Bell, but which are instead kind of like tostadas… crunchy tortilla thing and beans and beets and carrots and cheese and salsa and a slice of pork, which doesn’t sound anywhere as delicious as it actually is– it’s kind of sweet and kind of savory and kind of spicy, and it costs 5 pesos, and I just want to eat chalupas 3 meals a day for the rest of my life…

I’m here in San Cristobal until Thursday or Friday; today I’m hanging out with Pete at some organization where he volunteers, and tomorrow Dan and I are renting SCOOTERS and going somewhere. It’s totally out of my budget but I figure there are only so many times in your life you can ride around Mexico on fluro yellow scooters, and this is definetly going to be one of them.

I have to admit, I’m getting a little tired. I’ve had to do a bunch of school-related things these past few days, and that makes me feel anxious and a little depressed. It also makes me very aware of the coming summer. What the hell am I going to do with myself? I applied for an internship with the Active Transportation Alliance, but really I would like to engage in some active transportation. By biking. Really far. By myself. All summer.

Over the weekend me and Pete and Ezra went to Lagos de Montebello a few hours outside the city. They’re these huge sinkholes that, somewhere along the way, filled up with water– but each one is a totally different color, turquoises and deep sea greens and indigos. I guess it’s probably the minerals in the rock around them that make the colors that way, but mostly it was totally fucking beautfiul, and we marched along the highway from lake to lake, drinking Coca-Cola and getting harassed by would be guides.

Every one of them seemed to have th same shpiel. ‘Oh, hello friends,welcome to the lakes of Montebello. Have you seen the lakes yet? There are lakes here. Very beautiful lakes. I will show you them! There is Montebello and there is Ensueño and there are the 5 Lakes and…’ The list would go on for a few minutes. Then they would ask us if we had heard about the lakes again. After wandering all day we made our way to a new lake on the other side of the park and stayed in these unbelieveably idyllic cabins on the water, right next to a huge half-drowned pine tree farm that looked like something out of a Harry Potter book. We watched the sun set and turn the lake the color of candy, watched the moon rise in a perfect sideways curl, and then played cards under the flourescent light until we fell asleep.

This is the most expensive internet cafe I’ve ever been to and I’m about to surpass the one hour mark, so I think it’s time to go. More soon. Keep writing.

Filed under: mexico

goodbye mayapedal! (and xela again)

Today I left Maya Pedal. And it was really sad, actually.

Just a few weeks there and suddenly it was home. I said goodbye to Analiese– mostly we pretended like we’d see each other in like 2 days (which is true in the sense that we’ll see each other at Bike Bike in August). Said goodbye to Carlos, which was sad, but I’ll see him at Bike Bike too. Said goodbye to Louisa, to Diana and Steve, to their three blonde children, to Doña Angelina (who was totally destitute because el gringo toro left today as well), to Juan Francisco who had forgotten my name, and at the bus stop to Sarah and Mateo, who were off to Guatemala City for another day of conference. Mateo leaves (back for the States!) this weekend. Travel safe, Matthews!

After almost four weeks at Maya Pedal, I feel remarkably warm and fuzzy about the organization, and after one very important conversation with my friends last night, I feel good about my place there as a volunteer as well. I’ve spent a lot of time recently questioning whether or not it’s really just, or reasonable, for me to be traveling at all– as a white person, a North American (more than that, a US citizen), and a woman, what exactly does it mean for me to be here, spending my money and trying to enact positive change? Nonprofits can be so self-serving, and I do not want to be the kind of person who returns from time abroad waxing poetic about how much I helped the poor people of color down there in Central America. I think the thing about Maya Pedal is that it’s built with volunteers at its core– we don’t perform menial tasks so we can feel good about ourselves. Instead, our presence pays the utility bills, fosters continued connections with the bike cooperatives in the States and Canada that donate all of MP’s raw materials, and (maybe most importantly) we work for free. It seems so obvious, but I didnt really connection those dots until recently. Theres something subversive about that, I think– we work, but we get nothing monetary in return. Sure, we might be acquiring skills in the long term… but its an interesting way of working through privilige. Trading time and labor for, well, nothing.

I cannot for the life of me find the apostrophe key on this keyboard. Apologies.

In any case, Im in Xela now, again. Erin and I haven’t said goodbye yet because, after much goading, I convinced her that she REALLY WANTED TO COME TO XELA WITH ME. Now were on some rather extravagant PCs in the office of the travel agency where I just spent 200Q on a shuttle to San Cristobal de las Casas for tomorrow morning. A part of me really feels sad to be leaving behind my MP friends– Erin and Annaliese and Matthew kind of turned into a second home for me over the course of the past few weeks, and it feels wrong somehow to be walking away. But I also feel ready for some new surroundings, and Im exicted to run into all these kids in all kinds of other crazy places in the future. Because I will! And theres definetly some kind of reassurance in that.

Tonight me and Erin are sleeping in the cheapest beds in Xela– 20Q a night at this rambling old hostel called Casa Argentina. A huge mural of pastel colored casette tapes covers the cinderblock wall of the house next door, and over the spectacularly rusty tin panel roof of the first floor, you can see all of Xela. Erins bed has torn spiderman sheets, and mine might actually be made out of torn up cardboard, but its so goddamn cheap that I cant help but feel smug regardless.

So some fun tonight, and Mexico tomorrow. Onward!

Filed under: guatemala

you’ll never guess…

I’m standing in front of a very free, very fast computer in the Westin Camino Real  conference center in Guatemala City. It’s weird.

We’re here as represenatives of Maya Pedal at a this, Semana Nacional de Sciencia y Tecnologia, which appears to actually be a bit of a big deal. We came in knowing almost nothing– take the bus with Doña Ana to Guatemala City, go to Tikal Futura (a horrific mall shaped like a Mayan temple), call Ruben, he’ll tell you… something. We got picked up by a man named Juan, who drove us through what felt like 100 miles of insane traffic, and after getting lost and taking forever we found this ABSURDLY FANCY hotel where we fought with this bitter woman in the basement about using the cargo elevator for like 10 hours and then finally got our stuff upstairs, and now I’m sweating profusely and reading a book in our weird booth and being SO HUNGRY. We are waiting for Ruben. Who knows where he is.

On the way here I tried to keep a conversation going with Juan as he slogged through traffic. We passed a row of riot cops, complete with shields, in front of three red urban buses– windows broken, covered with graffitti. ‘Queremos un presidente NO COLON’: we want a president who’s not Colon. Juan told us that in the morning some thieves shot and killed the ayudante (the bus helper who takes money) and stole everyone’s money. I asked him if he was afraid of being in the city or riding the buses since people were killed so often. He shrugged, said no. I guess that’s how it has to work when the city you live in is a dangerous one. The whole way to Camino Real I watched the people on the shitty urban buses with a new respect. I wonder what they must be thinking about when they get on the bus to go to work, or school, or wherever– their bus drives past the scene of the crime, too.

In any case, this is pretty fucking weird. Right now it’s just me and Erin and Annaliese; on Thursday we’ll trade places with Allison and Mateo, who’ll work the last two days of the conference. We are yet to see a schedule, talk to anyone who has even the faintest idea what’s going on, or come within 5 feet of anything that looks like food. Erin was just accosted by a man with an official-looking lanyard who assumed we were freeloading off the computer station. Then we talked about Maya Pedal for a bit. Then he finally left us alone.

I’m really really excited to get moving. We’re spending Thursday night in Xela, and then all day Friday on the tourist shuttle to San Cristobal. In the meantime I’m feeling kind of grumpy. Going to go try and find a sandwich.

Filed under: guatemala

we don’t owe nothing to no one

I’m still alive! Jokes about blogging abound in the MayaPedal living quarters (especially after a ‘No One Cares About Your Blog’ t-shirt sighting in Monterrico) and I suspect increasingly that these posts are mostly for my immediate family, but here I am. Nonetheless. Listening to music on shitty headphones and surrounded by teenage boys playing weird internet games and searching for Semana Santa photos (?) while humming tunelessly. Behind me is Mateo (also blogging. Ha.) and Allison, a new arrival from the Pacific Northwest. There’s also a family here now– Steve and Diane, the parents, are remarkably chipper for having hauled three small boys (the youngest is 20 months) all the way to Guatemala so they can work on bikes. The other two new folks are Louisa, fresh from a year working at Entremundos in Xela, and Sarah, who’s been on the road for a while now but who fits right in (she sleeps with the rest of us in Bed City, the increasingly chaotic pile of mattresses in the main bedroom).

A lot has happened, and I won’t try to talk about it all. Last weekend Anneliese, Erin, Matthew and I went to Monterrico. We all drank Pepsi from glass bottles and swam in the unbelievably fierce waves, let the black sand grind in between our toes and got on the nerves of the 17-year-old British kids blitzed out at the beach on their gap year. Of course we didn’t call ahead for a hostel, of course everything was booked, but some unintentional reconnaisance found us the perfect secret digs– a free-standing second story palapa, still under construction but with four walls and a thatched roof and enough cross-beams for a someday porch that we could climb up without too much trouble. An anxious sleep with the sound of waves a few hundred yards away, and then a perfect morning– our own seaview hotel room, and it didn’t cost us a dime.

I’m learning a little working in the shop, but mostly it’s the friends I’ve made here that keep me for another day, and then another, and then one more. I was originally planning to leave on the 17th (two days ago), but obviously that didn’t happen. Now it looks like it’ll be the 28th, and then from Guate straight to San Cristobal, in Mexico. I’m bringing Anneliese with me. Because the party just doesn’t stop.

I’m halfway through this trip, now, although it doesn’t feel like it. Sometimes I catch myself thinking things like I don’t ever want to go back, or I’m not ready, or I don’t know if college is such a good idea after all when just living my life is so much fun.  But I’ve gotta check myself, focus on the present, let things come as they will. I’ve got months before I have to be in classes again– September is aeons away, I’ve got the rest of this adventure, and then San Diego and Salt Lake City and home sweet Oberlin again, and then a whole summer of who knows what. This trip was the right decision, and I feel happier now than I have in a very long time.

Tonight we’ve invited Carlos and his family over for dinner, which when we add on all of us means we’re making dinner for 14. God only knows how we’ll manage it, but it’s likely to be totally insane (just like every other wonderful thing that’s happened on this trip). Vamos a ver.

Filed under: guatemala

chichicastenago

Just wandered back into town after a verrrry long day at the market in Chichicastenango, bargaining for everything I was worth and eating a lot of cut fruit in plastic bags, which breaks pretty much every eating-abroad rule I know, but which was delicious. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a position to bargain hard for things, and I had forgotten that it’s totally awesome– maybe its’s just my frugal genetics rearing their head, but I LOVE CHEAP THINGS. A lot. That said, I managed to control myself, and bought two pretty scarves, a pair of earrings, and a 1Q bracelet. All very ladylike, obviously. I was there with Erin, who was an excellent market buddy. She also let me bargain on her behalf (even better market buddy).

The whole scene was a little overwhelming. Blocks and blocks of stalls draped and stacked with textiles, bright and lovely and each one totally indistinguishable from the next. Periodically we’d emerge at the end of a row and find ourselves in a busy intersection full of construction equipment, or on the steps of an impossibly picturesque church, its front steps overflowing with flower vendors. I lost my little brown notebook (in which I had copied down a restaurant reccomendation from my good friend the guidebook) and so Erin and I ended up at this strange little cafe with a leather-covered menu, eating identical portions of boiled vegetables on crepes and pasta, respectively. Soon enough we were back on the microbus, back on the less-micro-but-still-cramped chicken bus, and then back in Itzapa before dusk. I’m continually impressed by how functional the Guatemalan bus system is; I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to really wait for a bus, and although they’re always packed and the drivers might be criminally insane, they always get us where we want to go.

Now, ice cream and a nap. To Monterrico tomorrow. Keep the emails (and comments? maybe?) coming!

Filed under: guatemala

‘we want to control our technology, not be controlled by it.’

On Friday… I became skilled in the fine art of slash-and-burn agriculture on Carlos’s finca. We woke up early, ate some oatmeal (or ‘mosh’, as the Canadians call it) in sullen quiet, and then bolted out the door as soon as we heard the roar of Carlos’s truck and his usual greeting: ‘HOLA CHICOSSS’. Up at his fields, I discovered that using a machete actually is sort of difficult, and I stepped in a few pits of white ash from where the roots had burned out. Carlos inherited his fields from his father, and recently used the money he earned directing at MayaPedal to buy out one of his sisters and expand his holdings even more. It’s funny, I can remember reading about slash and burn land clearing as a rainforest-crazed fourth grader; now I spend my mornings as an active participant, and my afternoons talking big talk about appropriate techology and eco-friendly technologies. What do I know, anyways?

On Friday we also had a visitor– Christine, on her way from Baltimore to Tierra del Fuego on a trusty Surly Long Haul Trucker. One of the most fantastic things about being at MayaPedal has been all of the crazy people who come and go– it can be a little disarming sometimes, to live in a community so subject to such arbitrary change, but it’s also really exciting. Everyone who passes through just gets me more and more exicted about being alive, having crazy adventures, doing totally ridiculous things. I want to bike all the way to Argentina! And then I meet kids like Christine, and hear her talk about all the places she’s been, and all of a sudden it’s not a fantasy anymore. It’s a real option.

That afternoon me, Erin, Anneliese, and Matthew hopped a chicken bus to Xela, three bikes in tow. After a brief but frustrating hustle from someone who at first appeared to be helping us, and then after three hours on probably the worst excuse for a highway ever (I asked the woman next to me how long it had been under construction, she said ‘siempre’. Go figure) we rolled into Xela just as the sun was setting. The bus dumped us on what appeared to a pretty arbitrary corner on the outskirts of town, but after some quick map-reading and a payphone call to friend Will, we got pointed in the right direction.

Contrary to what I’ve heard from other travelers, Xela is a pretty incredible place. In the cool dusky light, wandering into the parque central, it felt like we had taken a bus to some crumbling pueblo in Europe. Huge gothic buildings line the park, which is almost always full of people talking, eating, sitting, playing music… travelers in irrationally clean khaki zip-off pants, women in traje with giggling children in tow, Guatemalan punks with cross-studded jackets, sulking self-conciously below the huge blue-and-white flag in the middle of the square. We walked towards Will’s place as it started to get dark– soon it was just us, the bikes, and some yowling cats wandering the increasingly abandonded streets. Will works for AIDG, another incredible appropriate technology org (anticipate photos on Mateo’s blog soon). Their office is in this wierd half-built all-concrete compound, and the main building reminds me of a large yellow lighthouse. That night there was an inexplicable carnival in the square– after fried dough, fried coconut, atole de maiz, and sort of questionable fruit punch with local brew Quetzalteca, we all passed out in a sugar coma in the extra room at Will’s place.

Fin.

On Saturday… we went to Fuentes Georginas. On Sunday… we climbed Volcan Santa Maria in the middle of the night and it was the most beautiful thing ever and I almost died on the way up. On Monday… we ate delicious food in Antigua and discovered a new recipie for smoothies. And we have another new volunteer! Eric, fresh from a few months of organizing and work in Oaxaca, has pointed me towards CACITA— Autonomous Center for the Intercultural Creation of Appropriate Technologies. I’m getting more and more excited about my time in Mexico, and CACITA will for sure be a stop along the way.

I do have more to talk about, but this keyboard is a bummerfest and I need to get back to MayaPedal and, um, do some work. Plans for the next few days include a day trip to the market at Chichicastenango, a weekend chillmaxing with sea turtles in Monterrico, and the much anticipated Lago de Atitlan visit, complete with PARENTS! Hi parents.

Stay tuned. Keep writing. Besos.

Filed under: guatemala

coco, two ways

Quite suddenly, I am working for my lunch. Today and yesterday Erin and I spent moving bikes around on the roof– a few very nice ones (integrated shifters!! anodized hubs!!),  a lot of very shitty ones. Sorting by type (mountain or road), quality (good or basura), removing wheels and organizing scraggly frames against the cinderblock walls. Sometimes the bikes have shop tags, from Boston and Chicago and unmemorable towns in southern California. It’s strange to look down and see hese bikes, the same as always, marked with all this North American insignia, and then look up and see Itzapa, in all its dusty tin-roofed glory. I am almost always cold here, but the sky stays perfect eggshell blue most days. Today I took a confusing shower in a trickle of ice cold water– although my new friends swear the shower gets hot, I’ve yet to see it happen. Still, it’s nice to be clean. A thin layer of dust will settle on anything that sits still long enough, and it appears I’m no exception.

Two exciting discoveries, both involving coconut: at yesterday’s market, Erin and I discovered candied coconut, sticky dark brown wedges in big heaps in metal bowls. A tiny girl in traje shouted “¡COCO SE VALE UN QUETZAL!” but of course we paid double. It’s hard to sass back when I know everyone is thinking I’ll charge them double, they can afford it, because the fact is that they’re right. I’m on a budget, but the difference between one queztal and two isn’t going to change anything for me. So I fork over my two ragged, brown-green bills, and in a tiny bag comes a gooey wedge of coconut, amber all the way through, so delicious that I might get sick from sheer volume. And on non-market days there is choco-coco, even cheaper, a frozen wedge dipped in liquid chocolate by a very nice woman with very gold teeth who moves through her shop in an amiable, unshakeable cloud of flies. It’s us and the schoolkids digging in our pockets and walking home blissful, with sticky fingers, but it’s lovely. I will eat coconut until I die.

I realized this morning, as I woke up to the sound of dogs barking next door, that I’ve only been gone a week. A part of me just can’t believe it, Ohio and my spot on the couch feel so unbelieveably far away. Today I ate scrambled eggs and avocado for lunch, scooting the food around my plate with a fresh tortilla from a few houses down the hill. My brain just can’t manage the trackback to my job, my friends, my midday co-op break-ins, my Netflix subscription… I don’t know. By the time I leave this place, so many things will have happened! It makes me anxious to think how slow and hopeful my days back home had started to feel.

This weekend I’m following Mateo and Erin to Xela, where a former Mayapedal volunteer awaits a bicycle delivery. Fingers crossed, I’ll finally make it to Voces de Cambio for some reconaissance.

Filed under: guatemala

market day

March! Already. Same sticky keyboard today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll bring a bunch of bike grease and just put it all over everything. I’d be the most popular kid in town.

It’s funny how quickly a person can adapt to things. After a day, I already feel strange sense of ownership of this place I’m living, and maybe a sense of belonging. The big concrete box we live in is comfortable enough, my foam mattress leads to unspeakably deep sleeps, and this afternoon I sat at the big wooden table, played Uno, and ate the most delicious pineapple from the mercado down the hill– 2 quetzales, the equivalent of 25 cents USD –with the kids I live with now. It was cold this morning, and spitting rain as I wandered wide-eyed through the Sunday market, heaps of scarlet tomatoes and small scruffy mangoes so ripe they’re almost rotten. Woven textiles in insane colors, blinding and laced with gold, embroidered with flowers and birds, pockets and ties in inexplicable places. A man with a serious face and a hefty black apron presiding over a table of glassy, miserable fish, dead and floppy on the wet plywood. Papas fritas twice fried in huge round vats at a street stand, blue tarps covered in plastic barrettes, combs, faux leather sneakers, illegal DVDs.

Yesterday we rode bikes to Parramos, about 20 minutes away, so Palo could drop off a skateboard with a friend he has there. My bici and Mateo’s both crumbled into pieces on the way, so we ended up sidetracked to the local tin-hut repair shop, and then a comedor where we spent a lot of money on soda and french fries. The woman there was friendly; we learned that her family hosts Peace Corps volunteers while they go through language training at a nearby school. She had hosted more than 10 over the past few years, and appeared to have photographs of every single one. Her husband, equally chatty, cornered Matthew on his way back from the bathroom and talked about, well, something, for about 15 minutes. After looking at an awful lot of framed photos, listening to that incredible reggaeton song about Myspace, and appreciating another relic of the unspeakable Brahva ad campaign, we rode bikes (slowly, arduously, brokenly) back to Itzapa.

Today has been lazy, but tonight we’re having dinner with Itzapa’s Peace Corps volunteer, Sarah, at her house across the square. And I think I’m going to eat some more french fries. Because I want to. Also– keep sending me emails! Even if I don’t write back right away, I really love hearing from all of you. And who knows, maybe you’ll get a sweet postcard in return. One more thing– if you’re looking for an Itzapa photo fix, my fellow volunteer Matthew’s gettin’ his blog on, too. Click “mateo’s mayapedal” on the blogroll.

Tomorrow the real work begins. ¡Hasta pronto!

Filed under: guatemala

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