Río Dulce and Lake Atitlán

Do us both a favor and put on some reading music.  Need a recommendation? YouTube full albums by Tycho or Satin Jackets.

DSC_0109I THINK one of the most important things in life is celebrating the absolute unnecessary.  That’s why I like art.  My artist roommate in New York asked me once to describe art.  I said, “Useless” and I meant it in the way of a productive 9 to 5 worker.  She squealed with delight.  It may have been the most accurate and best compliment to her life.

Now, art is one of my favorite parts of life.  It doesn’t have to be a shining unicorn diving from a waterfall.  It doesn’t have to win majority favor.  It just has to make an insane amount of sense for the blink of an eye.  Like a good, southern biscuit.

When I write, edit photos, draw, build something, or play music, I quickly realize I have enough hours in the day.

Wanna give yourself a cheap gift? Grab the closest thing and start scribbling, drawing, balancing, juggling, doing, creating.  Keep it up for more than 60 seconds.  I know, some of you don’t have that kind of time just laying around.

Time: what an illogical yet mesmerizing concept.

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I like these times when I hear cavernous lungs carpeting a thumping heart.   The result is not nearly as important as getting lost in the process.

After writing this, the guilty burn of productive society’s glare is but a glowing ember in the pit of my stomach.  Now I can go across the street to eat crepes on the roof and look at Antigua’s volcanos.

From the Guanzi (old Chinese text):

When you enlarge your mind and let go of it,

When you relax your [qi 氣] vital breath and expand it,

When your body is calm and unmoving:

And you can maintain the One and discard the myriad disturbances.

You will see profit and not be enticed by it,

You will see harm and not be frightened by it.

Relaxed and unwound, yet acutely sensitive,

In solitude you delight in your own person.

This is called “revolving the vital breath”:

Your thoughts and deeds seem heavenly.

= – =

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In two weeks of chaotic travel, I blew all of my available money with my good friend Danielle.  She just finished 3-1/2 months of solo travel from Panama to Guatemala.  Considering the dense beauty and the intense wilderness of the Central American hostel/party scene, that is not an easy amount of ground to cover in only 14 weeks.

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we spent the first few days walking around Antigua

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Three weeks later, I’m still cooking from this cornucopia, all for $7.

Avoiding awkwardness at home is the foundation of the restaurant industry.  “He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.” – Goethe

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Being civilized means ignoring your instincts.  It means doing things in ways to minimize judgment by others.  Instead of living as if you are invisible, you try to go unnoticed.

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Kung Fu and her new neighbor

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Even though it’s a b&w photo, what color would you guess? (Answer at the bottom)

DSC_0050Danielle waiting for Steve and I to dinghy up to his favorite hangout.  This is the best pizza I’ve had in Central America, by far.

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Thermal springs become waterfalls in Rio Dulce…

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…where else would you hide a bat cave?

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Rio Dulce is the most famous hurricane hole in the Carribean.  Steve has fulfilled his grand plan, over ten years in the making.

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After a few days in Rio Dulce, the three of us go to Lake Atitlan.

DSC_0155Danielle jumping from the “trampoline” in the town of San Marcos

DSC_0199Across the lake is the party town of San Pedro.  Twelve towns named after Catholic saints surround the lake.

DSC_0124 (1)Find the endorphins without any help.  That’s called “Joy”, “Love”, and “Peace.”  Supposedly these don’t play by the yin-yang rules and have no opposites.

There are some forces that we don’t know about.  Don’t believe me?  Look at the last thousand years of scientific discoveries.

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The hippie town of San Marcos so far has the strongest pull to Steve and I.

DSC_0120A view from the place where Oba and The Dubes are living.

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Of course there is a Taoist temple, too.

= – =

Her airport shuttle disappears down the cobblestone streets of Antigua, leaving me on the sidewalk in front of a convenience store.  I step into the tienda and break my last 5Q bill on a cheaply manufactured chocolate bar named after one of my favorite cities ( 6 points if you can guess the name in the comments) to punctuate my situation.  Momentum.  Time to get the ball rolling again because my current inertia is pointed straight down.

In other words, the last two weeks were perfect.

As I write this, taking deep breaths of the brisk breeze, the apartment’s soft and gangster cat, Lopez, sits next to me on the cozy futon.  We watch the banana tree sway in the sunny courtyard.  The back door opens each time the air pressure changes.  I could fix it, but…why?

Once you let go of the reigns of life and feel the wind sweep the sweat from your palms, you notice the horse actually knows more about the road than you.

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“Ain’t nuttin’ to it but to do it!” – a great quote from an old friend.  I use this to do gainers and other “dumb” things.  Aren’t they the dumbest, most useless things that make us stop in admiration?  At the rate I’m going, I’m going to be…what ever I want.  “There’s always time to become the person you want to be.” – another old gift that argues nurture vs. nature.

= – =

I spent a whopping ten minutes cutting and gluing magazine fragments to an unfolded piece of trash.  Some people call it a vision board.

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The next day my friend invited me to an organic farm to help with a promotion event in exchange for a bag of veggies.  Health and wellness.

One of the twin brothers running the farm invited me to use his welded outdoor workout gym. Calisthenics.

He said they have a big Thanksgiving dinner and that we should come. Look in the middle of the board.

They have a stage for daily stretching/exercise/dance where I was invited to be an instructor.  Yoga & Salsa on the right side.

He gave a tour of the farm and said we can come work once a month in exchange for more super foods.  El Mundo de las Vitaminas.

They are going to have weekly workshops to learn about chocolate, cooking, and a bunch of other do-it-yourself workshops.

= – =

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Note to self: Try to remember that you can’t be better at life than life.

Answer: Blue

Antigua, Guatemala and “Where ya from?”

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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.

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

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

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

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

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“Ignorance better means ignore-ance” -Alan Watts

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

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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?

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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.

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don’t think too hard, it’s just art

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Flan

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Central Park has public WiFi

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

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I did not adjust the colors.

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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)