… and I am Somebody male. in my thirties. recovering alcoholic. live in minneapolis. work in progress. gay. serenity please.

San Pedro and San Pablo

07.04.2010 · Posted in Travel

Guatemala: Day Two

I noticed yesterday that I’ve begun to ‘forget’ my camera at Benjamin’s when I leave the house. I think this is simply a sign that I’ve become more comfortable here and think of it more like an actual home.

Shanti and Zues, Benjamin’s two dogs, have made all the difference. Each morning they greet me with wagging tails and smiles on their faces. They wait patiently while I prepare in the mornings, getting dressed, taking my vitamins and medicine and making my coffee. The door opens and they casually saunter out into the world. I pick up their food bowls and bring them inside to fill. They are clearly excited and their casual attitude turns to anxiousness. Even though I am really living in their home, it feels good to be able to provide for them in a sort. In return they are wonderful companions, providing love and protection.

Yesterday’s morning began with some writing. I’ve committed to spending some quality time each day working through my NA step-working guide. It’s a thorough process working through the 12 steps, guided by readings and questions that suggest written responses.

I then made my way down the path to La Paz for breakfast. They make their own granola and seed mix, served with yogurt, fruit and a side of honey. It was truly a golden treat to wake up to. I anticipate the same ritual will repeat itself several times during my stay.

Following breakfast I returned to the house and continued my reading of The Alchemist. I’m enjoying it a lot and for see finishing it soon.

A short siesta and I awoke to much activity around 10:00 AM. Three men, Sebastian, Benjamin’s property manager, and two laborers, have been cutting down a large tree in the front yard. Katerina was laundering sheets, and Josh and Maggie had just arrived.

The tree cutting process is taking several days and is done with only man-power, machetes and ropes. They remove the tree branch by branch, hacking at the base, where the branch connects to the trunk, until only a small portion is left. Mind you, some of these branches originate 30 feet in the air, so the men climb up to that point. When little is left, they tie ropes to the branch and rock it back and forth until it falls.

Maggie, Josh and myself made way a short distance down the path to the docks where we waited a short while for a ferry to arrive and take us to San Pedro, a pueblo across the lake. After one stop and about 10 minutes of riding in total, we arrived at San Pedro. It’s a larger pueblo than San Marcos, and is much more developed and commercialized with a larger market area, several hotels and restaurants and their dock area has many boats parked there permanently for tours and commercial shuttle use.

We ate at a small restaurant called Hummus-Ya, billed as serving a mix of Israeli and Yemeni dishes. We all ordered a pita bread sandwich called a Basich (Baseech), stuffed with cabbage, egg-plant, hard-boiled eggs and some sort of curry sause – it was quite tasty.

Josh next to a No Drugs sign at Hummus Ya

Josh next to a No Drugs sign at Hummus Ya

From there we went up the hill a short distance to what’s referred to locally as “The Vortex”, which was basically the intersection of two primary roads. Up the hill is the market, down the hill the docks, across in either direction were shops and restaurants, with TukTuks congregating in the center. You have to keep aware of your surroundings as vehicles would come down the road without warning at high speed through the narrow streets. It required everyone to part to the sides. Often the vehicles were small pick-up trucks caring people standing in the beds.

Josh stopped in at a grocery store and purchased some goods. We browsed in a couple of other shops, but didn’t purchase anything. I was looking for a hat, as I’ve developed a mild sunburn, but was unable to find one.

We approached the TukTuks, small red taxis that transport people within the pueblo and to neighboring pueblos. They seat the driver in front, and up to three people in the rear, though I’ve seen as many as five locals crammed into the rear. Josh negotiated a price of 10 Q each to take us to the next pueblo, San Pablo, where we were planning to visit their friend Pete.

On we went. The journey took approximately 15 – 20 minutes. The TukTuks don’t reach very high speeds, and the terrain is very hilly. Often times the TukTuks don’t get out of first gear going up the hills, especially with a full load. Going down hill is usually faster, but the roads are in such terrible conditions, that they often must slow down to avoid potholes and points there the road has been washed away.

Josh and Maggie in the back of the TukTuk with me

Josh and Maggie in the back of the TukTuk with me

During the ride, Josh informed me that the drivers much purchase their TukTuk. The cost is $5,000 Q, which works out to roughly $40,000 US dollars. Quite steep for something I would imagine would cost no more than $4,000 or $5,000 new in the US. There are groups of families who purchase them and the sons drive them to earn money towards the family business.

Maggie relayed a story that she had heard from a local regarding the name TukTuk – it was named that shortly after they first arrived because the sound they make. When taxed, the little engines create a ‘tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk’ sound. We all got a kick out of that.

We arriveed in San Pablo and paid our fares. San Pedro is roughly half-way between San Pedro and San Marcos, and is a small pueblo, very poor and underdeveloped, though we did cross many schools. One was a parochial school of some sort, presumably run by the catholic church. Another was a Mayan school, where I’m guessing they may teach the native tongue and history of their ancestors.

The Mayan culture is still very much alive around the lake. The people are referred to as the “indigenous” people. They speak their own language and wear the traditional garb. The Mayan’s have a long history of weaving beautiful fabrics. When the Spanish invaded long ago, they required that each pueblo be assigned its own color. Those colors are still in use today. A woman’s skirt, or a man’s pants are usually black, with a stripe of their pueblo color, and their tops are often completely made of their pueblo color.

Interestingly, the Spanish also required that the indigenous folk not practice their old Mayan ways. They could not talk about it, teach it in schools, nothing. To help carry on their history, the women who weave the fabric would code their stories into the stripes found in their pueblo colors in their garments. The code would appear to an unknowing Spaniard as simply a pattern in the fabric, but the indigenous people were using the morse-code like pattern of lines and dots as a way to record their history and keep their culture alive. Very fascinating and still done to this day.

Returning to the day’s journey, we made our way towards the lake. Josh did not know where Pete lived, just a bit about his residence. Pete was acting as a temporary guardian at Casa de Elizabeth while her husband was away. He knew that the was on the shore and that it was circular in structure. That’s all he knew! He seemed determined, as Josh does, that it would all work out and we would find Pete.

We found a trail leading to the shore, through coffee trees, corn fields and other planted crops. The walking paths are quite treacherous and one wrong slip and you could fall down the steep hillside quite a ways! We snaked our way through and came across a few farmers, asking if they knew of the casa. They pointed us in the right direction and soon enough, we found a circular-shaped house on the hillside. Josh used what I like to call his “Guatemalan cell phone” and called out from the shore, “Pedro!” (Pete’s Spanish name). Elizabeth, the home’s proprietor returned his call and invited us up to the house.

Two locals were tending to the fields between the house and the shore and we made our way up the hill to the house. Elizabeth was preparing a meal for her two young children with the help of a housekeeper. She told us that Christina had stopped by to visit Pete and the two of them walked down the shore to sit on the dock. We made our way in that diretion and soon found them.

Pete invited us back to his Guardian’s residence on the property at Casa de Elizabeth. It was a beautiful cottage constructed of cinderblock and large windows very near the shore. He made us tea and offered us cookies as we all chatted a bit.

Both Christina and Pete appear to be in their young twenties. Christina came to the lake a few months prior from Northern California, where she had worked as a farmer. Pete, with dreadlocks and a permanent smile on this face, had been traveling through Central America for many months, having come from a small island between England and France. He worked for a couple of years in construction prior to departing overseas for his adventure, having saved enough to support himself for a while.

All of the local young people here seem to move quite frequently. They house-sit for people who live here part-time, or rent rooms or cottages from a landowner with a larger property. It strikes me as very nomad-like, but it seems to suit them and the communities just fine. In the end, as Josh says, it all works out.

Before leaving we spoke with Elizabeth a bit about her practice as a cranial therapist. There is some more formal name for the bodywork she provides, but I cannot recall it at this time. She explained it as manipulating the spinal fluid and working with the brain to release blockages – some physical, some mental – that provide healing. There are many such therapies offered in the area and though I don’t know how much faith I put in them, I do plan on meeting with Elizabeth later in my visit to give it a shot.

We hiked back up the mountain into San Pablo and took a TukTuk back to San Marcos. The three of us separated at that point, as it began to rain and Josh had to return home to make a cake for a two year old son of a family he stayed with for a month.

I found an internet cafe up the path and signed up for a 12 hour account with them. I then went down to the shore and found a small cafe that Josh had told me about – Moonfish. I enjoyed a cookie and a coffee and returned back to Benjamin’s to continue reading The Alchemist and take a shower.

Boy cutting the grass at Moonfish with scissors!

Boy cutting the grass at Moonfish with scissors!

I met up with Josh, Maggie and Nadja at a restaurant near Benjamin’s for dinner. The restaurant we went to had planned a Salsa Dancing night. It turns out that Nadja is also a trained dancer (and a sword fighter, and a cello player, and speaks umpteen languages … the woman never ceases).

We enjoyed a tapas-style dinner with several small dishes, my favorite of which was a vegetable lasagna – to die for. Dessert was a chocolate fondue sause covering fruit and crepes.

Conversation for the evening centered around relationships with our families and how we fit in or didn’t fit in with them. The people I’ve met here are so very real and wear no masks. It’s been quite refreshing.

It is now Sunday morning at the Public Announcement speaker in the town centre is broadcasting a man speaking to the entire town. The town centre is located at (you guessed it), the middle of town, and consists of a large covered gymnasium-like structure, a stage, the church and many small shops.

I am heading to La Paz to enjoy another dish of the golden delight and looking forward to the day.

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First Full Day in Guatemala

07.02.2010 · Posted in Travel

Today has been such an adventure! I’ve met so many people and seen so many new places – I’m just grateful.

I am staying at a home owned by a man named Benjamin. He has lived here in San Marcos for something like 20 years. He owns a hotel, restaurant and retreat space a short walk from here called La Paz and is very well-known in this small village of roughly 2,000 people.

I slept just fine through the night and awoke this morning to find that the dogs had abandoned me and moved to more comfortable quarters in the living room. Nice of them to at least see me to bed, I suppose. Zues and Shanti. Shanti is actually Zues’ mother, but they behave more like equals – always grooming each other, scratching each others’ backs, and horseplay as if they were puppies. They’re both labs, Zues blonde in color and Shanti all black.

I made a small pot of the local coffee using some sort of mechanism I’ve not come across before, though now that I am trying to describe it, it’s much like a small version of those percolators you find in church basements. With the coffee I ate nearly half of a peanut butter / chocolate bar that Josh made for my arrival. It’s delicious 🙂

I took my first first shower in an amazing indoor greenhouse / shower. Photos to come. The hot water heater needs to be warmed up before you use it, but that gave me the time to enjoy the aforementioned coffee and peanut butter / chocolate bar and sit out on the front porch enjoying Benjamin’s yard.

Josh met me at the house around 9:00 and we went to Andy and Annie’s house. They are from South Dakota and have two children, Celeste is 9 and Rowan is 6. The family moved here so their children could attend the Waldorf School here in San Marcos. We enjoyed more coffee with the family and then left with Andy in tow up the mountain a mile or so to Nadja’s house.

Nadja (Nadia) is a German lady with an interesting story, having lived in Germany, Sweden, China and now San Marcos for the last 5 months. She speaks several languages and has a degree in fashion. She’s working with local indigenous people to help them setup a business to export their goods. She is house-sitting at a beautiful estate on the mountain overlooking Lake Atitlan.

Nadja, myself and Josh

Nadja, myself and Josh

Nadja´s casa

Nadja´s casa

Marjanne (Maryann), a nurse, also from Germany, joined us at Nadja’s. From there we continued up the hill a short distance and stopped in at Andrew’s house. Andrew is originally from Idaho, having moved to San Marcos 8 months prior. He has a concept he’s still forming called the Dark Room. It’s an experience he offers to people for a small sum. They enter a room he’s built into his house for three days, never leaving, and as you may have guessed, completely dark. The dark room is equipped with a toilet and he brings in food at regular intervals. Coincidentally, the gang’s friend Maggie, a 22 year old from Boston who’s been traveling through Central America for many months now, has just emerged from her 3 days in the dark room only 20 minutes prior to our arrival. She kept telling us how beautiful we all looked, but added that we were the only people, or things, she’d seen in 3 days.

All of this and it’s only about 11:00 AM! The weather forecast I obtained from my iPad’s Accuweather app predicted that we would have sun until 2:00 PM, at which point thunderstorms were due to strike. Fortunately we avoided rain all day and the weather stayed around 75 degrees, though with humidity the “real feel” temp was in the 90s.

We left Andrew’s, letting Maggie regain herself, and began our hike to Joibolita. Two hours away, through the jungle, along narrow paths with nothing between you and the cliff but a whisper of air.

Josh had been hyping up the restaurant in Joibolita since the time I arrived. It’s owned by a German man who also farms and roasts his own coffee and hosts a small school that an older lady helps educate young children at. I ordered the Pancakes at Josh’s recommendation, but also enjoyed bread and jam, fruit tortes and cookies before departing. Though we didn’t leave empty-handed. We all purchased some of the jam and Andy and I also picked up some fresh coffee.

We took one of the public ferries back to San Marcos from Joibolita. Several of them run in both directions all day between the 14 pueblos (villages) surrounding the lake. I headed back to the house where I was greeted by a man who’s working on the yard. He is chopping down a HUGE, multi-trunk tree with a machete! Machetes are very common here – used as a multi-functional tool, but also carried by those walking in the dark at night. Presumably for self-defense, but there have been no reports of machete-inflicted wounds in years. I gather they’re more for looks than actual hand-to-hand combat.

Upon returning to the house I locked myself out with no keys, phone or wallet! The yard man had only the key to the gate, so I took a siesta on the porch with the dogs. An hour or so went by and Katerina, the housekeeper stopped by and let me in.

Josh came by a short while later and we headed up to Nadja’s house for dinner. We stopped at a couple of road-side markets where Josh inspected and haggled with merchants for the evening’s fare. It’s amazing how well he communicates with people, having known no Spanish just five months ago.

At the house we were greeted by Nadja and Marjanne, though Marjanne left a short while later to begin her own 3 day stay in Andrew’s Dark Room! She was very excited and looking forward to it. I haven’t yet felt that calling. (!!)

We were joined later by a Dutch woman, Julia. She is a film director in Europe and has spent the last two years building a home here on the mountain, high above San Marcos. Andrew also arrived later, after having gotten Marjanne settled into her new dark home.

Josh prepared a fabulous vegetarian dinner for us. Carrots, beets and cucumbers under a teesekee sauce with tempeh and palate. Julia had brought a seaweed dish she prepared and Andrew brought a salad with cabbage, tomato and mango. Everything was so flavorful and I was impressed by the variety given the lack of meat. (It seems many of the gringos here are vegetarian).

Dinner was had on the deck at Nadja’s, with candlelight and a lightning storm over the lake in front of us. It was beautiful. We had a discussion surrounding consciousness and worldly thoughts, societal pressures, the happiness in San Marcos and the varied people living there. It was really amazing to me to have met so many varied people from all over the world in such a short period of time and already feeling so connected with them.

After dinner we played a game of Chinese Pick-up Sticks. We had to set the rules straight beforehand, as the gang’s previous attempt ran into some arguments over technicalities. It was more a joke and a reason to get into a philosophical debate than anything. It was quite comical.

At 10:00, Josh was kind enough to walk me back down the hill to Benjamin’s house. It was pitch black. Without our flashlights I would have not made it far, though Josh tells me that he often goes without and the locals don’t own any.

I’m now back at the house, the dogs having greeted me and getting ready to get into bed and hopefully start The Alchemist.

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First night in San Marcos La Laguna

07.01.2010 · Posted in Travel

Exhausted and falling asleep so I’ve got only a few snapshots.

  • Cinderblock, corrugated steel and exposed wood seem to make up the primary building materials
  • Stray dogs – many of them with a gimpy leg
  • Rain and fog in the mountains
  • Beautiful views from mountainside roads crumbling over vertigo-inducing heights
  • Sinkholes
  • Beetles
  • BIG spiders
  • Four classes of people in the lakeside villages: the indigenous, the modern world-embracing locals, resident gringos, and tourists
  • Buses crammed with people
  • Lots of motorcycles

I’m staying at a nice home near the lake and am accompanied by a yellow lab and a black lab – pets of the owner. They’re both very sweet dogs, but at least one of them is emitting the “silent but deadly” variety.

More tomorrow. Activities dependent on the weather.

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MSP –> MIA –> GUA

07.01.2010 · Posted in Travel

Gate E14 at 4:35 AM. I’ve never been to the airport before at least one of the fourteen Starbucks locations is open.

I’m departing this morning on a 31 day vacation. After a layover this morning in Miami, I’m due to arrive in Guatemala City around 3:30 PM. From there I take a shuttle to the village of San Marcos La Laguna, on the northern shore of Lake Atitlan. The lake is at roughly 5,000 ft. above sea level and was created long ago in the basin of an old volcano. In fact, there are three volcanos in the immediate vicinity.

There are 14 villages surrounding the lake. Originally Mayan villages, they were resettled by missionaries in the early 1900s, after which 12 of the villages were renamed after the 12 apostles.

I’ll be staying at a small eco-hotel there called LaPaz. They have yoga and meditation sessions, as well as some basic massage and spa treatments offered. This isn’t the Canyon Ranch, however, as La Paz was recommended to me because it has hot, running water.

My friend Josh has been residing in San Marcos for many months now, and I’m looking forward to catching up with him. After many months of consideration, he sold his belongings, gave up his apartment, left his job and packed a large backpack with a one-way ticket to Guatemala.

I envy people who can move about so freely. I don’t consider my life any more “full” than Josh’s, but I do feel like I have too much going on in Minneapolis to just leave. I am, however, grateful, that I’ve been afforded the opportunity to take an extended vacation and visit.

After two weeks in Guatemala, I’ll be traveling to Puerto Vallarta by way of Mexico City. It was just this past New Year’s holiday that I first visited Vallarta, but it’s spell on me was immediate. The lifestyle there is so counter-intuitive to my natural speed. Slow and relaxed, as opposed to hectic and hurried in an effort for increased productivity. The weather certainly helps. The homes are open to the elements and the air off the ocean feels so much more life-giving than the air off the plains in the Midwest. There is an English-speaking AA club house in the old-town near where I’m staying. During my last visit there, I visited the club nearly daily and am looking forward to plugging into the community there again.

I have an hour yet before my flight departs. I’m off to exchange some currency and hunt down some coffee.

Leaping Lumberjacks

12.07.2008 · Posted in Uncategorized

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Some of the guys and myself ventured up to Stacy, MN today in blizzard conditions to chop down a couple of Christmas Trees. This is our second annual trip and we were happy to see the petting zoo make a return appearance this year, along with Santa!

Stuart wouldn’t come out of the car for the animals, claiming a sudden allergy to long-haired mammals.

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London

11.09.2008 · Posted in Autobiographical

I’m in London. 29 and I’ve finally ventured beyond North America. I’m traveling with my friend, Fabian, who knows the city rather well – which has proven quite useful.

In two days we’ve been to see Saunders and French at the Drury St Theatre for their farewell show. In fact, we saw it the night before closing. We had great seats in the front row of the balcony. The following night we saw Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre – a fabulous show I’d most certainly see again!

We visited both the Tate Modern and the British Museum. I favored the latter a it had much more to see and seemingly more history (the Tate is a modern art museum, afterall). While at the British Museum we saw the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin (Parthenon) Marbles from Athens, dozens of ancient Egyptian artifacts – huge gates, entire walls all detailed with hieroglyphics, mummies, sarcophogas (sp?), and other artifacts. The enormity of the place and all of the history contained within could occupy me for weeks on end – it was truly a treat and a place I hope to visit again.

Today we may see The Queen, who will be making an anual Armistice Day appearance in honor of the ten million soldiers who died in World War II. Nearly everyone here wears a poppy in rememberence for the same reason – it’s quite near to everyone’s heart here, it seems – something you do not see as much of in the US.

We are staying at the Grovsenor House on Park Lane, across from Hyde Park. The building is beautiful, as is the room. Amenities leave nothing to want and the two restaurants on site provide the finest in dining experience. It’s quite fancy and I feel fortunate to have picked such a wonderful place from the Orbitz travel selections.

A view from the interior of the British Museum:

Update: I’ve created a London album in the gallery.

SpyHouse on a Friday Morning

09.19.2008 · Posted in Autobiographical, Home / Minneapolis, Work

Six MCAD students crammed into a booth meant for four. Five girls and one guy – clearly a homo.

Girl is sitting at a table by herself in front of the opened french doors to 25th St. She has perfect posture and is holding her hands in a position around her coffee – one in front of the mug, and one above, as if meditating or drawing upon the energy contained within.

Most interesting, is the late-twenties homo sitting in the middle of the room with his Macbook Air. I am waiting for the bathroom and see him rise from his seat and take a very close look at himself in the mirror on the pillar near him. Checking for blemishes, straightening his shirt, and then he returns to a seated position. He too has good posture. With his Macbook Air, he has several accessories. A laptop stand that raises the monitor to a more eye-level height, consistent with his posture. A mouse. An external keyboard. This mystifies me, as the attraction of an Air is its compactness, and this man has an entire duffle bag for his accessories alone.

St. Germain is playing. The owner is studying his phone bill at the bar. Time to get working.

Traffic

09.11.2008 · Posted in Home / Minneapolis

I spent nearly an hour trying to get from my home on the south end of downtown to pick up my buddy Rambo on the north end. In Minnesota there is a running joke about our climate; we have only two seasons – Winter and Road Construction.

I complain about the road construction every summer but this year in particular seems to be worse than others. The I-35 bridge is down so there are all sorts of detours with that. The Twins Stadium is being built and they’ve got roads closed and dug up all over the city to reroute sewer and utilities. Lake Street seems to be continuously under redevelopment. Lyndale Ave has been closed at various points through the summer. Rail lines are going in and roads have been blocked for construction. Then there’s the Crosstown project that’s had major freeways closed, bridges torn down, and I-35 in one big perpetual clusterfuck.

However, there was one positive thing about being stuck in traffic today. This photo I snapped of the new Minneapolis Central Library as seen through my moonroof. It’s pretty spectacular.

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Loving my iPhone

07.31.2008 · Posted in Technology

This is my first entry made from my iPhone using the third party WordPress app developed for it. I’m impressed with both.

The ability Apple has to develop highly functional products that are simitaneously simple to use never ceasescto amaze me. Applications built for the iPhone have to be intelligently planned out as you can only fit so much funtionality within one view.

Though I’m not seeing functionality that would allow me to upload photos to posts the WordPress app seems to be quite extensive. You can administer multiple blogs, create categories, manage tags and many of the features a WordPress user finds themselves using frequently.

I’m looking forward to using this app again and continuing my exploration of the iPhone universe!

(NOTE: I just found the photo function!)

photo

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