Culture Insight: Women in Guatemala

The most requested topic from last week’s comments was: What are women like in Guatemala?

To get closer to the female population, I started saying yes to opportunities and let (insert belief system) lead me.

DSC_0024

At a local wedding, my Nikon camera got me hired as the professional photographer.

DSC_0018

My going rate is 2 cold beers/hr.

DSC_0184

My friend’s that brought me to Amatitlán.  Population: 100,000. I may have been the only green-go.

= – =

DSC_0319 (1)

To see another laid back version I went to the black-sand beach at Puerto San Jose.

DSC_0289

Unlike the famous beach at Monterrico, most visitors here are Guatemalteca.

DSC_0292

= – =

My data was still scarce.  How could I get closer to hundreds of local women?  …Zumba!!!!

DSC_0033

Antigua’s first Neon Zumba Party was expecting 150 people.  Over 500 showed, along with teachers from all over the country.

Being 10 inches taller than hundreds of people in the same room, I feel the occasional burn of self-consciousness.  This feeling flips between scoffing those in front and imagining what the people behind you think of you.  But, it’s all in my head.  This intricate self-sabotage is all but absent in the mind of the latino.  Passionate, friendly, humble – these are Guatemalans.  It’s as if the sun cooks out the paranoia their northerly neighbors exhibit.

Guys are there, too.  Dancing is part of life.  Like breathing air, Latins have to listen to music at all hours.  There are probably Guatemalans that don’t start dancing at a young age, I just haven’t met them.

In the U.S., our culture provides our first rhythm lesson as an awkward middle school dance.  For some of us, it’s the first time we’ve tried moving to the music since the last time we were laughed at.  It seems customary of the “developed world” to criticize those acting on their own intuition.  All ants should march in line with the others.  The marching orders in Guatemala range these days from Enrique Iglesias to dubstep salsa.

Another guy from the States said, “Man, you are crazy!  How did you lose all inhibitions?”  I told him, “It’s always a battle.  I constantly have to resist my western habits.  When I realize the people behind me aren’t judging me, I just listen to the music and it all falls into place.”

DSC_0110

= – =

One American girl sat by the stage and made negative remarks about one guy’s dancing.

One thing about Latin women: they appreciate effort and understand that not everyone has been dancing since they were 3 years old.  

The same goes for Spanish.  Ask a German a question in German and they answer in English.  If a foreigner gets one word wrong, American’s think it’s hilarious. Down here, the locals display infinite patience to help you learn their language.  They are honored by the gesture.

DSC_0189

= – =

In addition to this research, I work with women and have lived in Antigua for 6 weeks.  Here’s what I learned:

Women in Guatemala are the same as at home or anywhere else; that is, they are all different.

There’s a common misconception that people are different in different locations around the world.  Of course there are changes in diet, depending on economy and what grows nearby.  Construction materials and architecture have an impact on psychology (think Montana mindset vs. Manhattan).  There are also varying levels of fashion promiscuity.  But, the animal under the clothes is the same.  It makes no difference if it’s a businesswoman in Tokyo or a traditionally dressed Mayan on the bus with me and her two chickens.  The fundamental motives are the same: eat, sleep, reproduce.

Also, within any group of people, there are varying degrees of individual courage.  This determines how much that person can resist the influence of society to be “normal”.  Get 4 people from 4 different corners of the globe and you’ll have a wimp, a boss, a prude, and a slut, relatively speaking.  It’s a broad spectrum of people out there that can never be neatly grouped in categories.

That being said, there are some irrelevant trends that seem at first interesting and later invisible.

Religion 

On the surface, everyone seems to be a Christian, believing in one and only one God.

The “ancient” religions ended when the Spaniards came down to rape the people of their gold, while simultaneously spreading the love of Christ.  Before they believed in a Sun god, a Moon god and a bunch of other gods.  One list of Mayan gods has 37 entries beginning with the letter ‘A’.  When I expressed my interest in the idea of a Sun god and a Moon god, my most open-minded Guatemalan friend looked at me like I had a pelican beak.

But, being Christian doesn’t keep most people from having pre-marital sex like rabbits and a ton of other things that the bible prohibits.  “You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals…”  So, once the thin cultural veil is lifted to drink a couple of beers, the rules are pretty much the same as anywhere else.

Diversity

***Antigua is an anomaly.  It is a cultural hub with enormous western/liberal influence.  Any night of the week you can walk into one of the 20+ hostels and find citizens from 6 continents to party with.  Therefore it is not an accurate representation of Guatemala.***

Guatemala City is only an hour away by car.  Lots of hard working Guatemalans come to Antigua on the weekends.  Last week I met a young Guatemalteca from “the city” looking for a way to keep her bed warm through the cool mountain night.

The bar scene is much like the bar scene in any other city and depends on the bar itself.  There are at least 30 to choose from.  Hopefully, you are starting to see how difficult it is to answer the question: How are the women?  Answer: Awesome.  The same as anywhere else.

Some More Boring Trends

According to one website, the average female height of a Mayan Guatemalan is 4′-6″.  In Spain, it’s 5′-3″.  Antigua is influenced from all over the world.  One of the local girls I work with has bronze skin and goes up to my chest.  Another looks slightly Japanese is almost as tall as me.

Most local food is cooked in grease or oil, so like the southeastern United States, a lot of Guatemalans are fat.  Luckily, there is an abundance of quality fruits and vegetables, far cheaper than the addicting, unhealthy food.

A strikingly large gym culture exists also, which produces people that look like they go to the gym.  My Zumba teacher can wreck my whole week just by smiling and saying “Hola!”  Someone asked me if Zumba was for women trying to get back in shape after having kids.  Some members of the class fit this description. Others are like looking into a fiery jet turbine.

A lot of Guatemalans marry and start families young.  In Antigua, the weight of society varies depending on background, occupation, and many other factors I don’t pretend to understand.  A bartender born in Guatemala but who grew up in California will have a different way of moving through life than a girl selling fruit in the market.

= – =

DSC_0209

To find a new party, you have to travel through the unknown until you hear the music.

= – =

What other subjects are you curious about?

How to Expat: Five Cheap and Easy Meals

If you have any subjects you are curious about, feel free to ask me questions in the comments and I will write articles on those topics.

[An expatriate (often shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of their citizenship. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (“out of”) and patria (“country, fatherland”).] – wikipedia

When you get to Antigua (or any developing country) everything seems really cheap.  It takes a while to understand the new currency’s buying power.  A hamburger for 60 Quetzals = $7.82 doesn’t seem like much until you learn that a day’s work gets you about 120Q.  So working all day will yield you breakfast, lunch and dinner.  What about rent, clothes, entertainment, future travel?  There must be a way…

DSC_0358

A banana plant in my back yard gave birth.  One of the perks of living in Central America.

DSC_0359

With no idea of what to do with 100 pounds of bananas, I broke them into “hands” and scattered them around the house.  Are there any banana experts out there???  If you have any ideas, please share them in the comments. 

=-=

The day before I was going to go to the ATM, I lost my wallet.  With only 120Q to last me until payday (6 days away), I had to come up with a plan.  Everyone knows that crisis leads to innovation.  The most content times of my life have been when I was broke.  I guess it’s the lack of options that makes everything so crystal clear.

DSC_0021One of a hundred stands at the mercado.

DSC_0354Broccoli, carrots, beets, tomatoes, and a papaya for 8.5Q = $1.10

===

Cooking for Americans

It can be hard to resist that strange cafe on the corner.  Sometimes you just want a taste of home.  It’s always a good time for ____________.  We need to manage these external cravings if we want live sustainably.  Antigua, being perhaps the most densely cosmopolitan city in Central America, has no shortage of new restaurants and bars to explore.  Most restaurants are priced for short-term travelers.  If you start out making local wages have to either eat at budget restaurants or cook.

Here are some simple cooking methods for Americans and other newly adventurous people.  If this sounds sarcastic, it’s only by design.

I don’t know about you, but the only things I knew how to cook by the time I got to college was a quesadilla and scrambled eggs.  None of my friends knew how to cook growing up either, so I’m going to assume most young Americans don’t grow up knowing how to cook anything more complicated than ramen noodles.  And no, following a recipe doesn’t count.

In my Santa Rosa, Honduras post I showed how easy it is to roast chicken and veggies.  (It’s located about half-way down the post.)

Instead of translating symbols into arm movements (i.e. sit, roll over, add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt, etc.), I hope you learn how to use your tastebuds and sense of smell to create something that is enjoyable to eat.

=  –  =

1. Rice and Veggies (For ease of learning, no meat is added.)

DSC_0357

Beets or “remolachas” always turn everything magenta!  I am a believer in color diversity in your diet.

Step 1: Buy rice and colorful veggies.

RICE

Step 2: Boil water.  (Use between 2 and 3 times the amount of rice.  I recommend 1-1/4 cups.)

Step 3: Turn down the heat and add rice. (Use between 1/2 and 1/3 the amount of water.  I recommend a 1/2 cup.)  It will be nummy in 10-15 minutes.

VEGGIES

Step 4: Cut the colorful veggies into bitesize pieces.

Step 5: Add veggies and spices that smell tasty to a hot pan with some oil. (If you’re not sure how much, add a little and taste test)

***Note: Don’t over cook anything.  My friend John McLeod gave me some priceless cooking advice:  “Be there.”  If you want to burn something, go watch TV or leave the kitchen for a while.  If you feel overwhelmed, don’t do so many things at once.  It’s better to have cold, well prepared food than hot, burnt food.***

  • When you’re not sure about something: grow some balls, use your common sense, and experiment.

= – =

2. Veggie Pasta & White Gravy (The same veggies are used for simplicity and can be substituted.)

DSC_0005

This gravy is also good for American biscuits, home fries, or just to bring to the gym in a thermos.

PASTA

Step 1: Boil a bunch of water and add whatever shape of pasta makes you smile (follow bag instructions or cook until it tastes good).

VEGGIES

Step 2: In another pot, boil chopped veggies (Cut into bite size pieces.  Here’s a Gordon Ramsey onion demo.  Remember a cube has three dimensions which you can control.)

SAUCE

Step 3: In a small pan, heat a type of fat (butter, oil, chicken fat, etc.) and add some flour and stir.  (Roux is the base of many sauces. To learn more, check out the 5 Mother Sauces.)

Step 4: Add spices that smell good.

= – =

3. Spicy Chocolate Sauce (This Mexican-style Chocolate Mole is incredible with chicken and rice!)

DSC_0007

It’s ok to be afraid ’cause it’s new. Now that you’ve faced and overcome that fear, let’s talk about the sauce.  Instead of a sweet dessert, this sauce has a seductive richness and zesty spice that will blow your mind.

Steps 1, 2, and 3: Cook/season your vegetables first and add chocolate when it’s almost done.

***To season, I like cayenne, black pepper, salt, and cumin  Experiment: nutmeg, mint, and rosemary are good options as well.  The last time I made it, I used a can of peppers with a medium spice.  When it was nice and hot, I added raw cocoa powder.  It’s just like making chocolate milk, only completely different!

= – =

4. Yogurt Granola Fruit (Cheapest and quickest option.  Great anytime!)

DSC_0001

Yogurt & granola with strawberry/blueberry preserves and banana bread

Step 1: Chop some cheap fruit. (Whatever is in season is going to be the cheapest and most delicious option)

Step 2: Add granola and plain yogurt. (Find the yogurt with the shortest list of ingredients)

Step 3: Add a spoonful of fruit preserves/jam and a spoonful of peanut butter. (Macadamia butter is cheaper here in Antigua.)

Step 4: Sprinkle cinnamon and drizzle honey

= – =

5. World’s Best Oatmeal

DSC_0012

No photo would do this oatmeal justice, so here’s a badass chalkboard chicken instead.

Step 1: Put half a banana, a dash of vanilla extract/flavoring, and a couple spoonfuls of hot coffee in a cup. Smash with a fork and let sit for a couple of minutes. (Coffee breaks down the banana and extracts its flavor.  The mixture should be a light tan color.)

Step 2: Boil 1 cup of water and add a small handful of raisins.  Add the banana/coffee sauce.

Step 3: Prep a bowl with a small spoon full of butter at the bottom.  (Butter makes everything better!)

Step 4: Add a heaping 1/2 cup of oatmeal.  Reduce heat.  Stir constantly.

Step 5: Once oatmeal is reduced to desired thickness, pour it in the bowl.

Step 6: Sprinkle cinnamon and drizzle honey.  Stir and enjoy.

= – =

~ ~ WHAT DO WANT TO LEARN ABOUT NEXT?  ASK ME IN THE COMMENTS ~ ~

Getting Busy Living


You get settled in a new town.  You find the value grocery store, the best street food, the quality restaurants with local prices.

Then life becomes routine.  Life goes back to the way it was at the last town.  People get to know you, so you can’t play the mysterious character anymore.  Life gets boring…if you let it.

DSC_0036

My aura changed when I got to Antigua.  I really dig the town, but I got out of whack and a heavy darkness has been draining out of me.  Picture walking out of a dry sauna into the snowy outdoors.  Steaming bad vibes, visible to everyone around me.  Guys relate and open up because they know we all go there from time to time.  Chicks see it and take cover.  It’s just not safe.

So that’s what I’ve been dealing with.  The transition is like being the life of the party and then you go to the bathroom and everyone discovers something terrible about you.  You come back and everyone’s just staring at you.  At a party, one of your friends would take you aside and tell you what happened.  In a new town you have to try to figure it out without any clues.  You start putting the pieces together like a detective in a suspense movie.  Then it clicks.

I’ve been a miserable four-letter word for the past couple weeks.  It doesn’t matter how a bad habit is formed.  What’s important is doing what it takes to break it.  I usually start squirming and trying things until something works.  The first thing that got me out of my funk was boxing lessons.

Boxing helps release trapped energy.  It also forces my body to adjust.  I don’t crave sugar as much.  I crave more vegetables, which are the cheapest (and healthiest) food you can buy.  I’m starting to look better and feel better.  I’m doing something that I have wanted to do since I was a kid.  I’m also learning to become dominant in daunting situations.  Life will always try to push us around.   It feels really good to push back.

Being content with myself helps me to be content with others.  My boxing teacher, Hannes, is a grumpy over-analyzer like myself.  We have a little support group going on.  He’s conquering his fears and taking control of his life, too.  He is kind of a scary guy with a “wolf smile”.  He’s intense and doesn’t put up with non-sense.  To lighten up a bit he’s taking Zumba classes with a bunch of Guatemalteca chicas at the gym where we box.  We did the painting thing the other day and will be hanging out for sure.

Oba is in town with the Dubes as well.  Mathew McConaughey said in an interview that you gotta have your guy friends to live a healthy life.  I believe it.  Going solo is inefficient.  Friends back at home are irreplaceable, but the energy has to travel many miles.

DSC_0154Riding with Hannes to the Macadamia farm to paint

DSC_0137

Guatemalan landscapes are much better viewed from a dirtbike

“You can’t teach soul.” -Mario Loor

DSC_0087

The short patter of footsteps on my roof always entertains me.  It is probably the cat, but pretending it’s a Guatemalan rat living in the ceiling is also funny.  This room is laughable at best. That’s exactly how I’m going to enjoy it.  I can’t quite touch the opposite walls at the same time, but it’s close.  It must have been a storage closet, but the yellow walls, narrow rafters and street lamp give it charm.  I’m just going to fill it up with art.

DSC_0101

The rug really ties the room together.

You can’t let life get boring it.  The same courage it took to buy the plane ticket is the same courage it took to get that tattoo.  Courage is courage.  Fear keeps you on your familiar grocery list – on the streets you know – listening to the same music.  “But I know what I like,” you say.  

Tastes change.  If we aren’t trying things, we end up stuck with things we don’t like anymore.

It’s up to us to ask what we really want.  That’s easy.  When the door opens, we have to walk through.  That’s hard.

We tend to schedule away our time long before it gets here.

I get stuck in a grind anywhere I go.  I start to hesitate, mumble, lose ground.  Put me on a chicken bus to a place I’ve never been and I’m speaking with confidence in broken Spanish.  When you feel butterflies in your stomach, that’s the feeling of gaining strength.  You are about to grow.

This blog serves as a thermometer to read how I am doing in life.  The last two posts were negative.  I try to keep it honest and not hide one side of my experience.  I knew I was not healthy and so I asked myself what can I do to turn this around?

This is what I came up with:

  • Work less (which meant spend less time/money chasing things that don’t matter)
  • Treat my body better (boxing lessons have already found me)
  • Develop the big picture part of my brain (the artist painting the coffee shop gives lessons)
  • Move to the music of life (after boxing there is a Zumba dance class – trying to hang with latinos is intense!)
  • Better my communication (I’m waiting for the Spanish school “door” to appear)

DSC_0017

Andy (local artist) teaching me about depth and light/shade

DSC_0013 Andy also told me to learn a human face, practice drawing animals.  I feel like a proud 12 year old girl!  Can we hang it on the fridge?!?!


DSC_0177

The only thing more hilarious than my room is my bathroom.  The shower curtain always wrapped me up like a 70’s horror movie, so now I just squeegie the floor with my foot afterwards.  Occam’s Razor: The simplest solution is often the best.


DSC_0059

Space is limited in the city.  You gotta adapt and find a way to enjoy what you got.

Estoy Exhausto

Estoy Exhausto (I’m Exhausted)

DSC_0129

My mind feels foggy.  At this moment I am dumb from being tired.  I remember this feeling well from my days at the office.  In the field (when I would drive around New York and go up to rooftops in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx) I would always feel refreshed.  But I was targeted for upper management, so 95% of my life was to take place in the office.

I mean this is sad.  It’s 8:28PM and it feels like 1:28AM.  It’s a combination of emotions from working the past 3 days and not getting paid enough to survive.  I kept good records of my cash flow for the past 6 days and I spent 707 quetzals and only made 649 quetzals.  This doesn’t include the 125Q/week for rent either.  This is me being pretty careful, buying groceries, and only going out twice a week for drinks in a party town.  I am going out tonight though to clear my head.  Tomorrow I will talk to the owner about these silly wages and the ridiculous schedule.

The company is supposed to be all about helping the little guy, why don’t they pay their employees enough to survive on? I’m not yet sold on the company mission to help struggling farmers.  Some workers may be illiterate, but the farm owners aren’t stupid.  Charity is the most demeaning and suppressing force for those with low standards.  The worst thing you can do to a bum on the street is give money.  Unless your goal is for them to remain a bum.  There are some that are mentally sick, and that sucks.  Sick people either get better or die.  Death is part of life.  I told my roommates last night if they want to keep seeing animals (in this case roaches) in the kitchen, keep leaving food in the sink.  Maybe I’m being too much of an idealist.

Eating a bowl of refried beans mixed with chips and chopped veggies is starting to make my head come around.  I think it’s the bullshit and boredom of a job that drains you more than anything.  An honest day’s labor feels pretty damn good at the end of the day.  A job that you have to try to distract your mind all day makes you feel wretched because you are constantly having to lie to yourself to stay there.

DSC_0117

The reason pickup-artist books don’t work is they don’t derive off of a true confidence.  They create an illusion that is easily broken.  Without real integrity in what you’re selling, you may trick a customer every now and then, but they will soon catch on.  Right now I am very unstable with supporting myself.  This can only create an attraction between another person who is in-between food sources, so to speak.  

This could be me making excuses, but the truth is that I find it difficult to exude confidence when I haven’t even reached the lowest levels of survival.  My attention has been on securing a food source and shelter, not a social circle.  Or if you look at Spirit, Body, Mind, Social, by not having a good food source, one or more of these will be out of whack.  

I could steal and kill for food, and while that may generate an amazing level of confidence, I would have such inner turmoil with values and morals that I’m not sure what would happen.  Maybe like in the movie Natural Born Killers I’d get total peace of mind.  Maybe I’d just become psychotic and bizarre.  Anyway, the point is, if you want to have confidence with picking up a partner, you first have to have confidence.  Confidence in life.  Confidence that you are taking good care of yourself.  That’s what the whole looking good thing is all about.  Trimmed fingernails and well groomed hair are signs that a person is so good at survival that they actually have transcended to a level of self-pampering.  This is the basic idea behind Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

DSC_0037

It’s so sad that we take pride in how hard we can work.  How long and miserable can we grind out for someone else.  How much shit can we eat to build someone else’s dream.  If you are not a business owner, you are suffering as cheaply and as long as the owner can possibly get from you without you leaving.  That’s economics.  Your life is a quantifiable resources.  How much is your life worth?  Exactly how much you are getting paid.  I am talking with my boss tomorrow to tell him that I have an offer if he wants me to stay there.  He will pay me twice what he is paying me and I am going to work half as much.  If he can do this, I will stay.  If he can’t, then I’ll go get a job that allows me to have a life.  Jobs should be treated as freelance, because they are.

DSC_0146

Text from Jiddu Krishnamurti:

—===[[[   So the controller is the result of thought, thought based upon knowledge, which represents the past. And that thought says, ‘I must control that which is happening now’ – right? The actual. The actual is being, say for example, envy or jealousy, which you all know. And thought says, ‘I must control. I must analyse. I must suppress it, or fulfil it’. So there is a division – right? – the division created by thought. Are you following? So in this there is deception. Right? The deception lies in the idea that the controller is different from that which is to be controlled. Both are created by thought. Right? So the controller is the controlled. I wonder if you see this. Right? So if you really understand this, go into this very seriously for yourself, you will see that the controller is unnecessary, only observation is necessary. You understand? When you observe, there is no controller or the controlled, just observing. Observing your envy, say for example, envy, observe it, without naming it, without denying it or accepting it, just to see, the sensation, this reaction, which arises, which has been called envy, and to look at it without the word. You are following all this?

Then when there is no word, because the word represents the past – you are following all this? – and when you use the word ‘envy’ it strengthens the past. Right? So there is a possibility of living without any sense of control. I am saying this not as a theory but actually. The speaker says what he has done, not what he invents, that there is a life without any sense of control and therefore no sense of conflict, no sense of division. That can only come into being when there is only pure observation. Got it? Do it and you will see. Do it! Test it out.  

We are only examining what is actually taking place. And to observe what is actually taking place one must look, without the response of the past shaping it. From that pure observation there is action. That is intelligence. And that is also the extraordinary thing called love and compassion.   ]]]===—

DSC_0228

little tiny gummy bears.  Osititos! in spanish.  I will often toss a little balloon of these drugs on the bar and offer them to strangers

In developed societies, we have this strange idea that we can reach our potential by working more and working harder.  The human mind is like a muscle that requires rest.  Young athletes get into trouble often because they dont believe they need rest.  After giving in to their coaches wisdom, they realize the immense benefit of recovery.

Once a person takes a few days off from work, they feel more accomplished than the previous 6 months of constant grinding.  Doesn’t that seem the opposite of what we are taught?  If you observe the emotion associated with feeling accomplished, it is clarity, larger perspective, connectedness.  These could also be used to describe the state of mind after a good rest.  Instead of feeling this once after finishing an 8 month project or completing a certification, this feeling could occur almost on a daily basis.  Being overly-diligent is just putting this feeling on hold.DSC_0307

Once you do accomplish a great feat, how long does that feeling last?  Sure, you can always look back with pride at how you used to feel and try to renew this feeling by sharing the accomplishment with others, but that is living in the past.  It will never feel that good again.  Former world champions feel like former world champions.  The search for pleasant emotions remains a part of your daily routine.

At the moment I am employed at a job that takes all of my time and doesn’t pay enough to support my lifestyle.  I forced this situation against the natural flow of things (I turned down several other job offers), because I wanted to do what I love (coffee) for my job.  Confucius said, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  I now think: do what you love for work, and you will no longer love doing it.

My uncle warned me about this.  His passion used to be skydiving.  Then he became an instructor and it completely ruined it for him.  I go to coffee shops to clear my mind.  Working at a coffee shop all day long, all week long clouds my mind.  Worst of all, when I go to a coffee shop, I just think about the process.

DSC_0238

Israelis are actually pretty cool

Let’s face it, if there is any culture more hated more in hostels than Americans, it’s Israelis.  They travel in packs, rarely branch out to meet other nationalities, and speak the disgusting language that is hhhhhhhhhhhhhHebrew (read as if you are hacking a loogie).  My fear and loathing of the strange culture was compounded after living in Key West, where 300+ t-shirt stores are constantly yelling fake bargains at you with an Israeli accent.

So what is wrong with these strange animals?

There is a hostel in Antigua that is known as ‘the Israeli hostel’.  95-100% of the guests are from Israel.  Spanish is not widely known and some don’t even know English (see, there’s my U.S. arrogance).  It is as if they travel the world in the comfort of their home, completely missing the potential experience around them.

Every now and then you can find a Israeli loner.  One who avoids the pack because he/she wants to see what Earth is like.  That person doesn’t need a support group to order lunch.  If you are lucky enough to befriend one of these explorers, you will learn a lot.  You will also break formed stereotypes of their root culture.  It’s like digging through a dozen books on a subject and finally finding one that is readable.

Dor is one of these Israeli loners.  When I took 8 Israelis up the volcano, Dor left the comfort of his native language to occasionally talk to me about photography, coffee, and travel.  He designs/builds ornate sets for plays and television shows.  He also sells his photography and sells things on Ebay.  About the same age as me, he is doing well enough to order a new $800 camera, without batting an eye, after his lens broke.  A drunk German guy asked Dor, “So are you Jewish or Muslim?”  Dor said, “I’m vegetarian.”

This is how I got my insight into the Israeli culture.  I would run into him around the city and at party hostels and bars.  On his last night, he invited me to have a beer at the Israeli hostel.  At this point, I was totally wasted from hitting a joint too many times (I have a mega-weak tolerance for weed) next door.  I can’t carry on a conversation when I’m really high.  I observed instead.  

Although I didn’t understand the dialogue, like watching a foreign film with no subtitles, there mannerisms were without aggression, totally relaxed.  They shared everything from drinks to cigarettes to blow.  The bar in the hostel looked like one in a luxury hotel.  There was a nice deli/coffee shop downstairs.  Everything was so spread out and clean that I did not feel like I was in Central America.  I felt like I was back in the States or Scandinavia.  There was even a hot tub.  No wonder they never leave.  It’s insanely comfortable here.

They just all took care of each other.  When the security guard told us it was closing time, there wasn’t a big fuss from drunks like last call at a bar.  They all got up at once, efficiently cleaned the party lounge and headed for the door, maintaining their conversations as if nothing changed.  I saw a respect for one another that made me envious.

Later that night I asked Dor about the money stereotype.  He explained with his permanent smile that they don’t value money very much.  According to him, Israelis would rather give you food, clothing, shelter, information, and any other form of hospitality before money.  He explained how money just doesn’t mean that much and it is used as a last resort.  

Now this could be a very convenient and overly-abused excuse, but it makes sense.  It could be one of the deep gorges that separates it from other cultures and causes a great deal of confusion.

Another nut I’ve been trying to crack is Indian (the country) child rearing.  Working at a mostly vegetarian restaurant, I got to see lots of Indian children running wild and shouting at their parents, who unfazed, maintained polite conversation in an otherwise peaceful restaurant.  Although I have not immersed myself in Indian culture yet, I theorize that they are simply letting their children be children.  I bet they look at us with the same horrified curiosity when we shout at our children.

I believe that all cultural stereotypes have logical explanations once you have all of the information.  Standing afar full of fear is how the game is usually played.  Let’s hope the internet and an increase in world travel will shed light on the fact that we all have the same brain anatomy, the same psychology, and good reasons for doing the things that we do.  We will also realize that all human beings desire the same end: to feel good.

DSC_0298

“It’s either real or in a dream

There’s nothing that is in between”

-Jeff Lynne

DSC_0100

“Psychologists found that something like 98% of our thought processes are completely repetitive…Realize that it is possible to be conscious without thought…the identification with thought is like dreaming…One could say that the next step in human evolution is to rise above thought…Up till now, humans have been totally identified with thought.”

-Eckhart Tolle

DSC_0312

The boss dropped my schedule down to 3 days, but said they are too new (only been a company for 3 months) to give pay raises.  I said ok, because I do enjoy making and learning about coffee.  I also have time now for a bar job or volcano tour guide, which both make 2 or 3 times as much.  So I’ll have a job for each of my bi-polar personalities.

What did I learn?  If you want more free-time, ask for more money.  If you want more money, I’m assuming you could ask for less free-time…?

DSC_0002 Painted with 2 espressos, 2 mochas, and scrubbing a couple of roasted beans on the canvas.  Also started with pencil.  It’s funny, to me, the reactions people have to art.  Most of the town is unnerved by the alien ship, you know, because they aren’t real.  Danielle was “creeped” out by the cross, because she didn’t know it was an actual view.  My friend, who is Guatemalteca, has a fantastic sense of humor and just saw it as art.  Let’s all spend 10 minutes trying to find out what it means!  

What it means is I had a baby hit of a bong before me and my boxing teacher drove up the hill on his dirt bike to paint away the beautiful afternoon in the sun.

DSC_0282

“Stormy seas make a skillful sailor.”

-book that Patrick Storey and Kenzie are reading

Observant

– Observant –

DSC_0035

I snapped today.  I had been trying to be patient for too long.  With the changes and going with the flow and being natural and all that taoist jazz.  The night before, Javier and I went out after work and got drunk.  I’m not sure about him, but I was drunk.  Stumbling around at 1:30am, I found some locals at a late night pulperia and asked in Spanish which way South was.  They looked at me confused.  I asked again which way to Volcan Agua.  They pointed and I walked into the dark streets of Antigua, looking for a familiar street.

The alarm clock said it would go off in 4 hours and 33 minutes.  That is not enough sleep for me.  I had been telling the coffee shop that I am completely flexible and took all available shifts.  This took up so much time the last few days that I can’t remember the last good exercise I had.  It has been said that when one area of your life is out of balance, all areas are.  If any of the 4 pillars of the human foundation (social, spiritual, physical, mental) were developed at this point, it was social.  Otherwise, I have been cramming philosophical, historical, and coffee knowledge in my brain as fast as I can without passing out.  I have not been writing much, stretching, and have no groceries for simple healthy eating.

After a morning of forcing positive thoughts, I was asked to cover another hour so the other barista could have a midday break.  After that, time flew by and before I knew it I was in a hurry, annoyed by her lack of concern for quality beverages, and trying to calmly explain her errors.  The key word is “trying”.  I was not calm.  Javier asked me what I was doing with a laugh to which I snapped back, “Making a mocha.  What are you doing?”  My manager calmly said, “I’m making your schedule.”  After a couple of minutes, he said he wanted to me to get some rest.  I told him I would leave right after I finished showing her how to make the drink “with love”.

If there were cameras in this place, I would ask to see the tape to study my body language and expressions.  It’s kind of harmless and humorous until the frustrated person looks you dead in the eye and the amount of pain is only exceeded by the amount of anger.  In those rare eyes, there is no room for fear or for losing a confrontation.  That is where the old saying, “dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog” comes from.  A midget could take down a giant if he were angry enough.  Aggression is derived from fear.  Anger has no regard for fear or reason for that matter.  My anger came from restless frustration which came from the looping dilemma of how I am supposed to make a healthy living in a town where I can spend a weeks worth of pay in one night.  Rent is cheap, especially where I’m living, but working full-time to barely get by is going to eat away at a person like me.  I never work “full-time” because I learned years ago that it’s unnecessary and very unhealthy.  Now I’m considering working 3 jobs so that I will be able to leave Antigua when the time comes.  It’s difficult not to be a burden to others when you are flat broke.  I’ve heard that you can travel without money, but I have not experienced this first hand.

So anyway, I’m in a city that I love, doing exactly what I want to do, but just got a little burned out.  This is the game.  It’s always a game, too.  Rockstars go back on tour, not because they like playing their most thoughtless songs 20,000 times, but because they have to earn a living.  I think hunting and gathering is the same way.  No good artist stays good by resting on his laurels.  Back to the drawing board.  What is most important and how can I simplify?

11852703_10152860954671685_956798435_o

Oh so there are some basic needs and that is going to have some fundamental affect on the way I view the world.  Until we are uncomfortably without, we are unable to see the world as it is, without the smoke and mirrors.  When we have excess of the bare essentials, it’s impossible to imagine others in need for example.

We are so caught up in what we want, we begin an endless quest to seek comfort.  This will not only drive us to misery, because the moments of true happiness will become obscured in the cloud of superficial desires and instant, fleeting satisfaction

This is perhaps the reason I am drawn to this path.  Because a part of me wants to get all of those material comforts like 5 cappuccinos a day and now cuisine infusions and trendy apparel.  The key word being ‘trendy’, because the style simply won’t last.  The people who are attracted to this topic lusting (like myself) will scorn the person wearing clothes from two years ago before actually looking at the person themselves.  At least some part of the brain and time of one’s life is spent thinking in terms of what will impress strangers.  This aesthetic search doesn’t aid you physically or mentally, perhaps socially, but only temporarily.  The moment eye contact is made and worlds are exchanged all appearances go out the window, that is, as long as the person is really listening.  To really, really listen, you have to feel what the other person is feeling as they give you their words.

There is the chance that two people can look at each other with such intense lust that they will immediately search for a linen closet to release the build up energy.  And that’s all well and good, but then what?  When do you get the emotional connection that we are all seeking?  When can you share your favorite movies and cook dinner together and dance and travel?  You see, the problem with material investments is they retain no sentimental value.  you’d be better off getting plain, comfortable clothes that fit and are comfortable and then spend the extra $ on an exercise class.  Investing less on instant gratification luxuries will allow you the money and time to do this.

DSC_0039

One of the hardest parts for me in life is not complaining about life.  One, because I always gets better, so there is really no sense in whining.   Two, because it brings people down.  Three, because nobody wants to hear about your constant bitching.  No, it’s true, people are turned off by weaknesses, probably because it reminds us of the same weaknessnes we are hiding form.  It is so difficult not to bitch because that is where I get a lot of my information from.  When I complain, the human response is to help and I get lots of it.  I’m not proud of it, but its what I do.  And I’m a huge hypocrite, so basically whatever I put into words, the opposite will come true.  Indirect power.11837003_10152860953121685_354618642_o

A friend sent me his photos from the volcano trip.

11840428_10152860952211685_445204443_oIs it possible for animals to be sustainable?  Only for a limited period of time, then changes have to be made.

In the course of a lifetime, an animal just does what it needs to from one moment to the next to get by.  Some of these moments can be planned for.  The more prepared you can be, the fewer surprises that person will have to deal with.  Some people don’t like surprises.  The best and worst parts of being alive are surprises.
DSC_0007

I don’t have to participate in the shenanigans that make me feel so empty, like going to a college type bar full of beautiful, uninteresting women that I can’t talk to.  It’s not fun for me.  The ones I am interested in don’t frequent these places, putting me at odds.  The whole experience is uncomfortably awkward.  I feel like I have to have a drink in my hand and look around to see where my “friends” went because I don’t want to be a wierdo by myself.  Girls never approach loners at bars like this.  The same spring-break, cattle-herding money-trap that I’ve seen since I could sneak into bars, where the only remedy is to shout seemingly funny small talk while trying to get drunk off shitty beer as fast as possible.  Looking at it objectively makes my stomach turn.  No quality, all quantity.  9 out of 10 times has historically ended with me going home with an empty wallet to watch porn and pass out.  There’s plenty of options, if I want to lower my standards.  In the words of Kurt Cobain, “I wish I was like you.  Easily amused.”

DSC_0009

Try to observe your emotions without words.  Don’t let an inner monologue begin in your head.  Try it for a day.  Just observe.  The controller and control are inseparable, meaning that if you try to control something, you are subjecting yourself to control.  I’m not going to spoil the surprise of what happens when you just observe, but try it out for yourself.

Here’s a video with more explanation if you want:

Volcan Fuego & the U of C

Shtolen from wikipedia.  Thanks

Shtolen from wikipedia. Thanks

This picture was taken in 2013.

20150802_053142

Here’s my grainy picture taken from my tablet.  Next time I’ll find a way to fit my good camera.

F n A!

I am training to be a guide to take up groups to Acatanango Volcano.  After 5 hours of climbing uphill through the clouds to 3,400 meters, we have noodles and coffee, cooked on campfire.

The night grows dark, but there is not much light pollution from the 5 or 6 visible cities below.  Also visible is the silhouette of Volcán de Fuego and Volcán de Agua.  Agua is dormant.  Fuego is not.

Every twenty minutes or so there is a BOOM!! The sound is about 5 seconds behind the light which has already traversed the canyon and we look up to see the fireworks.  Red sparks the size of tool sheds shower the conical silhouette.  Sometimes it is just a poof of smoke.  Sometimes rivers and waves of liquid rock turn the top 1/3 of the volcano bright orange.

This volcano is also over 3,000 meters tall.  So one thousand meters or eleven football fields are covered with lava.

Behind Agua Volcano, fluffy clouds ignite in constant lightning.  There is an increasingly bright, glowing cloud which gives way to a full moon, fully illuminating the half of sky opposite of Fuego.  Still, the sky is clear, I can clearly see the Milky Way accompanied by the occasional shooting star.

As I write this, I hear cheering from the other campers.  I look up and see a massive plume of fire above Fuego.  The sound catches up a few seconds later with a massive boom.  Lava flows almost all the way to the bottom of the massive volcano, now glowing fully like a mountain of hot coals.

20150802_074153

Fuego in the light.

20150801_182730

The campsite and Agua.

20150802_055658

From on top of Acatenango.

Guatcanos

It sits near the middle of the volcano chain, which is part of the Ring of Fire.

 20150802_055647

Looking West.

20150802_055651

Morning clouds rolling into the city (barely visible, bottom right).

20150801_150000

Grass growing on the side of Acatenango.

20150801_145911

Very Dr. Seussical plantlife on the ash-fertilized soil.  That’s why the coffee is so complex and regarded so highly in Guatemala.

DSC_0074

I am not a grinder.  Sometimes I wonder how I am ok with not making money for the future.  I would rather do what I want now than prepare for a future that I can only catch up to once or twice a week.  I guarantee if I’m not around next year, it won’t be because of money.  Don’t get me wrong, I like to work.  But some jobs pay better than others and some are more enjoyable.  I just rank constant enjoyment higher than potential enjoyment (money).

Then I found this audio clip:

Thanks Oba, for introducing me to Alan Watts.

Every path in life is the right one because it’s the only one you’re going to take.  

To get off the human schedule is to be often alone.

“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”

-Alan Watts


DSC_0097

The Unjudgeability of Connectedness

The reason we like looking at things that are obviously old is because there is a faint the sense of the thing in it’s prime. The same goes for visual textures. Our minds can feel the surface of what we are looking at even if it’s too far to reach. When a cat jumps on a ledge we detect the softness of the landing. It’s all our world. It’s all our reality. We are part of that reality. We follow the same rules. We didn’t have to learn the rules, they were already our instincts when we were born. If you can stop thinking about arguments and future anxieties and just look out, you can feel what you are seeing. Run your mind’s fingers over the shingles of a house you’re walking by. Look into the eyes of a passers-by and see their thoughts. You have the same thoughts. If you let yourself, you can see they are experiencing the exact same thing you are. It’s all part of the same game. It is all one game. All the parts are connected because they are all made of the same stuff. An unlimited supply of the same stuff that all started as the same stuff at the same time. The vastness of all the details of the universe is only matched by the complexity of our minds, which are both made of the same stuff, too.

Once you understand this and understand that we all have the same thought process, the same thoughts, you can feel people making their decisions.

It makes sense why, on relaxed days, I like to focus on all the little details. Pebbles, flowers, the breeze. I see the miracles like a child in a sandbox. Soap bubbles really are amazing.

On other days my mind is spinning through preparations and planning and comparing everything and everybody I encounter. When you believe things are unconnected, they can and will be compared. You don’t compare your hand to your foot. They are different, but they are part of the same body.

DSC_0070


Sleep Deprived Guilt

Today, with only 4-1/2 hours of sleep, I felt annoyed at the general public, which really just means I was annoyed with myself.  Some part of me was annoyed with the choices I made last night (I didn’t even have the excuse of being drunk).  All night my gut was telling me to go home, but I was babysitting a drunk person until 2:00AM, knowing I would have to get up at 7:00AM to hike a volcano.

The volcano trip was postponed and I wandered around in a fog of frustration, thinking about other bad choices I have been making like not being healthy enough.  This isn’t even the case.  Aside from about 30 espresso drinks and 15 fluffy pastries, my diet and exercise routine have been alright.  I’m not in shape to run a half marathon, but my joints and tissues are fairly free of stress buildup.  Aside from the lack of sleep, my life is pretty well balanced at the moment.

But I keep seeing my reflection in car windows and then scold myself for getting flabby.  I judge the younger people at my hostel for drinking cheap beer and doing exactly what I did a few years ago.  The only obvious variable is my lack of sleep.  All week I’ve felt fine and this is the first time I let me self undersleep.  

I took a 3 hour nap and am now back to seeing things clearly.

I have a theory… or rather correlation of how not sleeping enough creates miserable yet consistent workers.  I don’t think it’s a grand conspiracy, rather an imbalance of time and money.  Sort of like bad diets and sugar crashes.  The more we work, the less time we have for money saving activities.  Once the see-saw tips, we slide down into a tired trap which can only be solved by either doing much less each day and going to sleep early, or by adjusting the over-working situation.

We play a game in the civilized world where the players see how little they can sleep and still function.  Ever been on vacation?  Happy vacationers sleep the full 9 hours their bodies crave.  Maybe we need so much because of our brain/body ratio.  From what I’ve read, the brain is 2% of our body weight and requires 25% of our body’s oxygen.  Gotta give it rest because, in one way or another, it controls our reality.  Treat it well and have a good reality.

Why do you think stoners are so chill?  They sleep enough.  Workaholics (historically me) are always tired and have volatile emotions.  Here’s a cool article about sleep:

https://www.onnit.com/academy/sleep-or-die/

This morning I had a coffee with peach aromas. I’ve been eating peaches from the mercado. I never buy peaches. At lunch my friend and I were talking philosophy and he said he could see I was in a new season and that he saw peaches. I hadn’t told him anything about peaches.  He didn’t know where it came from, it was really random.

I’m going to do some research this week and get back to you next week.  Any comments on peaches are welcome.

Antigua, Guatemala and “Where ya from?”

DSC_0154

Agua Volcano (one of 3 forming the town’s perimeter)

When I arrived to Antigua, I planned to stay for 10 days and then go to a workaway agreement at Lake Atitlan for 6 weeks.  The first night in the city I realized this was where I wanted to be.

DSC_0024

A week later, I cancelled with the place at the lake and decided I am going to live here.

DSC_0053 (1)

Above: An exhibit at one of the many art museums.

DSC_0003

Southern biscuits are one of the best things since the big bang. Now I have the power to create them.

DSC_0025

It’s your ride.  Good or bad, you decide.

DSC_0022

“Ignorance better means ignore-ance” -Alan Watts

DSC_0091

I didn’t know after the rockstar years I’d enjoy my own company more.

DSC_0064 (1)

There are two clerks and two customers each buying half a dozen things.  I stand in line for 10 minutes for a notebook and a few pens.  Is everyone in this town as high as I am?

DSC_0009

Mocha lattes make me feel normal.  It takes me about 15-20 minutes to drink one.  I take tiny sips, analyzing the microfoam texture, temperature, sweetness, flavor, and strength of the espresso.  I ponder things, breathe slow full breaths, and sometimes share thoughts with fellow homo sapiens.  All of life’s events are put on hold until the drink is complete.  This is my reset button for fresh perspective and energy.

DSC_0011

don’t think too hard, it’s just art

DSC_0208 (1)

Spanish Architecture. In the 1770s, the population was 60,000 people. Today it has a population of about 35,000.

DSC_0071

My least favorite question is “Where are you from?”, especially when it is the first thing to come out of a stranger’s mouth.  Sometimes when I am asked that question I tell them that is the only question I don’t answer right away.  I tell them that I have 4 reasons and if they would like to hear them, I’ll gladly share. 

The reasons are: Accuracy, Extrapolation, Embellishing, and Small Talk.

Accuracy, because the question is extremely vague, and requires either an equally vague or very long and complex reply.  The question also speaks to the past and doesn’t allow the person to display the growth since they started their journey.  Unless a person lived in one town for their entire life and then flew straight to where you are asking the question, it just leaves out a lot of important information.

Extrapolation is an estimation between a limited number of data points.  The only way to know a lot about a place is to spend a significant amount of time there.  When a stranger tells you they are from a certain place, the chances of both people being from the same place is astronomical.  When you learn that a person is from a place you don’t know much about, your mind projects any known data about that place to that person.  A lot of times it is bad data and most of the time it is completely unrelated to the person.  So the person gets a false representation before they have a chance to display any of their characteristics.

Embellishing happens a lot on resumes.  I know this because I am really good at making resumes.  Resting on laurels restricts growth and trying to sound cool is usually stretching the truth.  Someone might say they are from Seattle when they are really from Bellingham.  The person answering the question has control over the interrogator’s perception.  

In the end, it’s all just really weak, unoriginal small talk.  Talking about the weather would be better, because at least it’s in the present moment.  If you are going to lead into a conversation by asking about someone’s origins (which I think is kind of personal), try to be original.  Using, letter for letter, the exact same phrase that six hundred and fifty million other people have used that same day, just makes you a boring person.  Don’t be boring.  Think about the sounds your face is about to make. Try to show more cognitive awareness than a bowl of yogurt.

DSC_0211

DSC_0204

Biggest people’s market I’ve seen in Central America. I got lost and it took me about a half hour to find my way out.

DSC_0173

Another group of expats from the U.S. that go to Central America after retirement are school buses.

DSC_0076

There is a factory that renovates the “chicken buses”. You can get a ride 20 minutes out of town for 1.5 Quetzals = $0.20   DSC_0170

I took a picture out the window while we were driving down the mountain.  Pancho is very polite and his natural reaction was to pull over.  Wrong place to pull over.  He realized almost instantly, but it was too late.

Some road workers came over to check on us.  Then they left and came back with very heavy branches from a tree.  Two layers of these 6-foot logs and the SUV drove right back on the road.  The entire ordeal lasted about 15 minutes after which we drove to town to run errands.

DSC_0122

Flan

DSC_0110

Central Park has public WiFi

DSC_0069

I have about 80 pictures of Antigua’s unique doors.

DSC_0066

I did not adjust the colors.

DSC_0037 (1)

Today I was told it’s the volcanoes surrounding the city that make people want to stay.  I can dig it.  Who’s gonna argue that a volcano isn’t a powerful force?DSC_0157 DSC_0039 DSC_0033 (1)

It all comes down to balance.  Working too much turns paradise into hell.  DSC_0060 (2)

Copan II

To not travel is to hold in your lap the book of life and never leave the first page.

-somebody

DSC_0101

central park

It’s probably not that super common for an ant to encounter a human being.  Especially not a country ant.

A dragonfly just landed on my forearm.  Talk about a weird looking animal.  There’s these black ants walking on my legs and hand and they must be just freaking out.  I mean this strange new texture with these skinny looking trees (hair) and smells from these little wet holes (pores), spaced evenly.  And none of their friends have ever experienced anything like this before.

Maybe an elder, who is almost a week old has been ostracized to the distant edge of their kingdom.  (One’s trying to get under my belt and getting frustrated.  His little legs are pointy) The old guy is an outcast because he talks about this time when he was a boy, 6 moons ago when he took a ride on a giant continuous field of blue and green and red woven material.  Aliens made it for sure.  And it took him all the way to the other end of the sun where he walked, lost, for an entire day.  This is like a year for an ant.  (They actually live 1-3 years surprisingly, but the i’m not rewriting the thought)  And an old sweet ant took him in and gave him leaf and water and said everything was going to be alright.

But it wasn’t alright.  He was labeled crazy by society and had to either live a lie or live alone.

And now these young ants are looking at eachother and saying, “Holllllllllly shit!!! That crazy old bastard was telling the truth all these days…”

DSC_0328

When you do “should” activities, it’s difficult not to multi-task.  When you do what you actually want to do, there is an authentic focus.

DSC_0236

It’s not how we feel, but what we do with those feelings.

DSC_0174

Leave time in your planning for fun.  That’s the hardest part for me.

DSC_0251

The machine does not like art.  It takes away from productivity.  I didn’t consider paintings, dance, drawing, or writing before I left the machine.

DSC_0097

Lychee fruit – sweet meat, watch the seed

White shoes have always creeped me out for some reason.

DSC_0425

Daytime fencepost

I worry about the future a lot.  I’m not talking about the distant ten or thirty years down the road kind of thing.  I’m talking about the way the rest of the day is going to go.  When does this restaruant close?  Will it be dark by the time we get back?  What will I have for dinner?  I’m not even hungry and I’m thinking about what I will want once the emotion, the feeling of apetite gets here!

How am I supposed to know what I’ll be hungry for?!

Instead, I could be more practical and gather current, relevant information and make rational decisions based on that.  I have to resist going on to the next thing because the current situation is already pretty cool.

I’m sitting on a porch, overlooking a lawn lined with exotic hardwoods and tall palms at the edge of a mountain overlooking the valley in which the pueblo of Copan lies.  An old yellow lab is snoring beside my rocking chair and I’m sipping chamomile tea, writing this, listening to truly strange tropical birds, on acid.  Yea, I think I’ll chill in this moment for a moment.

DSC_0175

One reason drugs are good is they allow you to take life less seriously.  I haven’t taken nearly enough in my life.

DSC_0352

Chewing to Health

Ever get a stomach ache after a meal?  I got a BIG one this week and it came and went for 3 days.  I also got a fever, couldn’t sleep, and other symptoms.  I researched enzymes a bit.  According to one source, we are designed so that 70% of our digestion takes place in our mouth.  That’s a lot of chewing!

Actually, if you just chew a little more than you think you need to, the food totally loses it’s texture and is so easy to swallow that it’s difficult to consciously keep chewing.  You begin salivating enzymes that then travel to the stomach (they are not already there) to continue the digestion process.  Without these enzymes, your stomach is an unregulated acidic mess.  It’s a wonder I can digest at all the way I inhale food.  I mean I literally only breath air between bites.

“Well I don’t have time to chew 32 times per bite! Muh, muh, muuuuh!!!!” one might cry.  Well, could eating slowly possibly be a source of effective multi-tasking?  See what happens when you try to chew your food longer than 3 seconds.  You begin breathing through your nose (healthy).  You actually have time to enjoy the taste of the ingredients (fun).   You have time to think (productive).  It is as if you are meditating for the 20 minutes of your meal.

If you were going to meditate at the most critical times of the day, in order to keep the big and small pictures in perspective, what times would they be?  For me, it would be early in the morning, in the middle of the day, and then again in the evening.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  You can eat slowly and still share someone else’s company or read the paper.  They don’t conflict.  Meals can go back to meaning something and being more than just a necessary item on the to-do list.

I realized while tripping on the mountain: We animals eat quickly when we are afraid.

DSC_0111

Mayan means “corn people”

Something amazing just happened.  I just got paid for something I wrote and offered to get paid to write something else.  I wrote a review on Trip Advisor and went back to the restaurant (See Review Here) to try their coffee and yogurt.  The guy wouldn’t let me pay because he liked my review so much.  Then he offered to comp a massage if I would write a review for the massage therapist.  Conflict of internet?  I’ll focus on the positive and be honest.

DSC_0365

this means turn back

If you don’t get rid of the old, there’s no room for the new.

DSC_0439

baby macaw (pirate’s “parrot”)



 Don’t WORRY about what you want to do for the rest of your life.  Life isn’t lived in the future, it’s lived one day at a time, one second at a time.  It’s impossible to know what you are going to want to do ten years from now.  It’s a dumb thing to ponder, yet almost everyone in the westernized would demands it!

Ignoring their own problems, they demand you tell them right now what you’ll be doing in ten, twenty, thirty years like today doesn’t exist.  The only thing anyone really knows is what they want right now.  So do that.  And if you keep doing that, a pattern will naturally develop and you’ll have answered, eventually, the first question.  As my brother’s friend and mentor Carl says, “Plot your course as the water passes under your keel.”

2888-cm288804edd805f929e5jpeg-CUOW

Copan Ruinas

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” 

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

DSC_0313

A street in Copan Ruinas, Honduras. The cobblestones remind me of Europe.

What the hell do I do all day?

Ok, it starts with me saying, “Ahhhhh…. Not a thing to do today!” and I amble into the kitchen.  I ask (self-sabotaging my peaceful day) if the ladies need any help with breakfast.  They say, “No gracias!”

Whew!  I walk next door to fill up a water bottle and the owner of the hostel asks me if I want to make and sell pizzas tonight to earn some money.  I say, “I’ll think about it.”  After buying yeast and flour, I drop off the groceries and get my stuff together for a coffee shop blog post.  On the way, one of the ladies asks if I want to go on a coffee date at 3:ooPM.  Sure.

So from 8:00am – 10:00pm I am once again busy, but it’s cool.  Thirty minute yoga, thirty minute morning writing, eat the hostel breakfast (eggs, refried beans, avocado, toast, orange juice), buy groceries, work on blog for a couple hours, visit a friend, buy gourmet cheese for the pizza, make the dough, bake the pizzas, clean up.

After dinner, my job is to sell beer to anyone playing pool and hanging out.  Afterward, I read, listen to youtube, and go to sleep.

I was selling biscuits, but not many people share my passion for those savory, flaky, buttery, fluffy little golden nuggets.  To hustle, you have to hustle.  It’s fun though.

 “Hundreds and hundreds of people are running after success and none of them know what it is!” -Alan Watts

-=-

Mango Mouth

1436559576_thumb.jpeg

My upper lip is usually smaller than my lower.  Lips are sensitive and I’m typically a whiny little bitch, so this is extra painful for me.  It’s called “mango mouth”.  Mango is in the same family as Poison Ivy, along with cashew, sumac, and pistachio.  Someone in Roatan showed me how to eat them when they fall off the tree.  It never bothered me until almost a month later.  Hostel Barakah in Copan Ruinas has two trees and they are falling like crazy.  Itchy.

DSC_0479

Mike Rowe gives a Ted Talk about what he learned from 4 years hosting the show Dirty Jobs.  For one, he said the people he met had a sense of peace and balance that no other group he knows maintains.  Hard work is good for the soul.  He also pointed out that we are at war with work.  This is the revolution of this generation.  There was the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, the Social Revolution of the 60’s, Suffrage, Civil Rights, several others, and now the Anti-labor Revolution.  As a participant of this revolution, I am not going to argue whether or not it exists.  What I am curious about, is to see what comes from this revolution.

Robotic labor will be later on because there are still vast differences in currency values.  Outsourcing labor will accelerate as skilled labor (welders, electricians, carpenters, etc.) are not replenished by citizens of westernized cultures.  From this, I can see two positive results: cultural-exposure increases and currency-value buffering.

By more and more labor being demanded and filled by foreign labor, strange cultures will be experienced, second-hand, by citizens of the country not willing to do it’s dirty work.  This initially induces xenophobia (fear/hate of foreigners), but eventually this fades away as the population transforms.

An average per capita income for 2013 was estimated at $1,570.  In the United States, in 2008 it was $26,964.  Buying power will also homogenize with each generation of global labor shifting.  This is not a move toward socialism.  Rich businessmen in India will exist side by side with rich American businessmen.  It is happening without effort because it is natural.  As countries become more familiar with one another, the public is harder to trick into going to war.

DSC_0473DSC_0464

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

DSC_0435

old stuff

DSC_0412

reminds me of Boots

DSC_0417

there is still some 1200 year old red paint on some of the stones

DSC_0398

ball court at bottom right

DSC_0402

market-ing = going to the market (the United States’ national past-time)

DSC_0364

the right half is what it looked like before excavation

Hostel Peace

I really enjoy these late nights when the hostel is almost empty.  The other night a bus dropped off about 15 backpackers and the hostel has been full the past couple days.  I just chilled in a hammock and watched 2 hours of Joe Rogan stuff.  The interview with George St. Pierre is awesome.  

Now it’s midnight, but I feel wide awake.  Normally I’m too hard on myself, always trying to finish reading a serious book, or working on a story, or drilling Spanish verbs.  Trying, working, drilling.  Always striving to get better.  Tonight I walk through the silent hostel on the clean tile floor, run my fingers on the unlit pool table and stroll out on the porch to listen to crickets.  This valley is peaceful.  No wonder they chose it to build the Mayan pyramids and temples.  It’s at a high elevation so it doesn’t get too hot during the day and at night you can comfortably sleep in one of the hammocks outside.

===

This is me:

“We have all met those who are trying very hard to be real persons, … ranging from students of arcane wisdom to the audiences of popular speakers on pep and personality, selling yourself and making your life a success. I have never yet met anyone who tried to become a real person with success … So many modern religions and psychologies make this fundamental mistake of trying to make the tail wag the dog, which is what the quest for personality amounts to.” Alan Watts

“It’s hard to prove genocide,” said Hall. “If some Biafrans survive, then genocide hasn’t been committed. If no Biafrans survive, who will complain?” – Leonard Hall to Kurt Vonnegut in Biafra: A People Betrayed

Feel the breeze.  Trees in the sneeze.  Peace comes cool to break the rays.  Days roll on and summer is long here where the ocean meets the bays.  Blue and green and blue and white.  Coral grows deep like a pelican’s flight.  Warm and dark and white at night.  The beach covered mountains grow leaves for light.  Take what you will, what you need from me.  It’s now or tomorrow and all I’ll just be.  Each morning of the future is waste.  Instead I’ll walk uphill, no haste.  Just keep on the fountain’s edge and avoid drops.  The coins are a trick and cost more than the sops.  Bring puppies and kittens and raisons and treats.  Leave drinks and breads for others who sleep.  Dip cookies in milk and laugh to yourself.  This dream they call real is as sharp as a knife.  This sleep they call awake will give and take life.  When it’s all said and seen, walk in circles to save time.  You can live on gold and you can dance with rhyme.  Disobey but be kind.  Avoid bullets for your mind.  Keep a book and a heart and mind in your pile of unopened boxes under the sweet pine.  Look left when in the West before deciding to cross.  Forget the fancy restaurant.  Try to grow before you’re lost.  Forget the rules, just observe the first laws.

Watch the sun without your eyes.  Take each breath with great surprise.  Keep a totem in your heart to keep you company in the dark.  Wear no shoes on top your bag because it holds your back at sag.  Nothing gives us like we have.  Nothing tries to take it back.  Winter is a chance to bake and a chance to avoid the great mistake.  Keep a phonebook in your pants to use in rain and great romance.  I’m talking to you , O’ winner of the games.  Only the world doesn’t know your name.  Because names are silly and change all the time.  The only constant is the frame of your mind.  It’s never changed so let it all go.  Be who you were in six inches of snow.  Take in the soup, give back the change.  Stare at a lake or a homeless dog’s mange.  Pick up a stone and ask if it cares to be called ten thousand times nothing the same.  Walk every morning, every evening at night.  The slower you move, the harder the fight.  Shade is your ally, but water can kill.  See if there’s a mailbox inside of that pill.  I can’t say I tried and Charles would be pleased to see me in shambles falling through my own knees.  There never was an ending, so how could it shine like golden palm fronds at the end of my mind?  I’ll keep up this nonsense for it beats the alternative: to simply be happily avoiding the truth.

 DSC_0287

The 100th Monkey & Roasting Thoughts

Photo on 7-4-15 at 8.39 AM #2

freedom

The “critical mass” was apparently reached and another barrier has been transcended.

Similar to the critical mass or “tipping point” phenomenon, I heard an interesting theory (though discredited in the scientific community) called The Hundredth Monkey.

On an island in Japan, sweet potatoes were fed to a community of monkeys.  The sweet potatoes were covered in sand and although the monkeys enjoyed the food, they disliked the gritty texture on their teeth.  A young, female from one of the troops discovered that washing the potato in a stream removed the sand.  Others in her family began to copy her technique.  The idea spread slowly and some of the older generation preferred to eat their potatoes sandy.

The name 100th Monkey is used in reference to an arbitrary critical number, which was supposedly reached.  This was suspected because almost overnight, groups of monkeys from other islands and on the mainland began to wash their potatoes also.  It was as if their knowledge had spread without direct contact.

A zoologist, Dr. Lyall Watson, made the observation:

“Let us say, for argument’s sake, that the number was ninety-nine and that at eleven o’clock on a Tuesday morning, one further convert was added to the fold in the usual way. But the addition of the hundredth monkey apparently carried the number across some sort of threshold, pushing it through a kind of critical mass, because by that evening almost everyone was doing it. Not only that, but the habit seems to have jumped natural barriers and to have appeared spontaneously, like glycerine crystals in sealed laboratory jars, in colonies on other islands and on the mainland in a troop at Takasakiyama.”

Sounds like every fashion trend when I was growing up.

To whom it may concern:  Any time you want to join this type of lifestyle, even if it’s only for a week or two, you are welcome to join.  You can come down and stay at the place I am staying where my cost of living is currently about $40/week.  That is not a typo.  You will be expected to work around the house and garden and help with the organization of the mural project.  This particular offer stands as long as it is listed online.  It and other offers can be viewed at http://www.workaway.info

That being said, I don’t believe you or anyone else truly envies my life, because if they did, they would take the offer to join me on a backpacking adventure.  I’m not lonely, actually quite the opposite because there are so many backpackers out here already, but it has been frustrating to hear over the years people say, “I wish I could do that!”  And when given the opportunity and means, they sheepishly decline, protecting themselves with paper thin excuses.

I guarantee I can get you a one-way airplane ticket for less than $300 from anywhere in the continental U.S.  I’ll pay the difference if it’s more.  Take a short vacation or a long term hiatus from work.  Come check out what it’s like to live outside the United Boxes of America.  It’s a game changer.

DSC_0026

stumpfortable

What would you do if there were no time?  With infinite time, there would never be a hurry to do anything.  Even if what you were doing at some moment were a complete waste of time, there would be no time and therefore no way to waste it.

Would the activities one took part in therefore only be chosen on a purely enjoyable basis?  Would boring and useless activities still be performed to milk them for every last drop of amusement and value?  If you were immortal, you could first acquire vast amounts of influence through hard work in order to have good karma and the means to fully enjoy yourself.  Then you wouldn’t be a peasant for all of eternity, but then again, what is the hurry?  You could wait a while before getting to work.  Maybe as you enjoyed sloth, you would realize that you already have everything you need.

DSC_0040

plastic bottle caps

Do your feet hurt?  Shin splints?  Check out where your weight is going in your feet.  If most of the force is ending up on the balls of your feet, your shins will always be angled forward slightly.  Don’t just believe me, try it out.

The Talus bone connects the shin to the foot.  If you want the pain to go away, make the weight transfer 50% to the heel and 50% to the balls of your feet.  Your foot rocks a bit as you step, but the forces should average out to be even when walking, standing, or climbing.  Doing this ensures that the shin angle averages out to be vertical.  Too far back and the inertia is absorbed in a “breaking force” due to friction between your foot and the ground.  This is bad for knees.  I learned this getting ready for a half marathon several years back.  Too far forward and you get shin splints because your shin is always trying to bend like a banana.

Try it out.  Just try for a day to make the force equal throughout the foot.  Check out what it does to your posture too.

DSC_0003

you can easily see these ants from 15 feet away

Eating The Sandwich

At the beginning of Joe Rogan Live (a 1-hour stand up routine which I highly recommend) he is in a car heading to the show. Eat the Sandwich Clip  He basically says we are a very complicated form of bacteria. Every year Los Angeles grows and it looks just like mold on a sandwich.  You can knock it down with a hurricane or set it on fire and it always rebuilds. Joe Rogan says then that he believes that is why humanity is here: to eat the sandwich.  He says, “We are here to fuck shit up.”

Going further with this, I’d like to include the environment and rural issues.  Everyone probably agrees by now that we are going to eventually alter the chemical makeup of the atmosphere or it will change itself as it has done all along.  As this happens we are going to have to evolve (gills, telepathy, whatever) or go extinct.  Since we are only using

Lately I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about people taking the next big jump in evolution.  Like the jump between Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens, when humans became aware of their thoughts and no longer just acted on instincts.  This is one theory anyway.  Rural areas adopt urban trends and conveniences.  Increasingly successful medical practices and overall healthy living means more babies surviving birth and more people living to a hundred.

Painting a wall seems to take forever because it takes so long to paint the perimeter. As you move toward the center, it gets faster and faster until the perimeter becomes the center.  This is how the rural areas are going to get consumed by cities.  They will be very quiet as the edges are getting “painted”.  And then all of a sudden, oh shit! the suburbs of Los Angeles are also the suburbs of San Diego.  Or Savannah and Jacksonville.  Portland and Seattle. Eventually New York and Chicago.

The population of the United States in 1800 was 5.3 million people.  In 1900, it was 76.2 million.  That’s only a hundred years and humans have been around for 200,000 years.  In the year 1970 it was 203 million.  In 2000 it was 280 million and now it is about 320 million.  In it has already happened all over the country except for places like Montana, the Dakotas and west Texas.  The human bacteria is a strong one.

I say, the sooner, the better.  We are going to evolve again.  As Bill Hicks said, “Evolution did not end with us growing opposable thumbs.”  Let’s eat this sandwich and see what’s for dessert.

DSC_0011

i call it a Jumanji Flower

Brugmansia, or Angel’s Trumpet, has been traditionally used in South America for various medicinal purposes and religious ceremonies.  I call it the Jumanji flower and it is very toxic.  Hallucinations, but not the good ones, ensue after digestion.  It is reported that you lose the awareness that you are hallucinating.  In once case the person amputated his own tongue and another arguably important appendage while under the influence of this plant.  It is labeled as “Extinct in the wild”.

DSC_0282

left field

DSC_0047

right field

DSC_0028

buck-fiddy cup of joe

DSC_0059

at 8 minutes. wet grass aroma is changing to lightly toasted bread

DSC_0062

beans undergoing “first crack” at 10 minutes, stronger bread and slight caramel aromas

DSC_0071

uneven because i roasted to perimeter of pan, roast stopped at 14:20. Cool rapidly in colander

 DSC_0232

at Estucafe they roast for about 10 cafes in Santa Rosa

DSC_0254

the wooden handle in the previous picture for aromatic observation. Hipsters use caution: don’t burn the moustache

DSC_0266

one of 4 charts for olfactory training

DSC_0271

the girl at the roaster told me if you work at a roaster 5 days a week, it takes about 3 years to become proficient

 

DSC_0054

espresso roast is great for lattes, but has less of the origin characteristics

DSC_0283

music is important for the road