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

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“Drug” Culture of the Americas

Drug

drug

/drəɡ/

noun

 1. a medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body.

A question from last week: I would love to hear about the “drug” culture…what are the pervasive opinions? How does one acquire pot? Is it any good? etc…

Thank you for the question Brooke, and feel free to ask me anything.  I will do what I can to give a helpful answer.

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To keep the article confusing and because I don’t have pictures of narcotics, I have added pictures of some of my favorite “drugs”.  When the coffee cherry turns red, it’s ready to be hand picked.

= – =

“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”
Hunter S. Thompson

Unlike HST, I am not an expert in drugs, in Guatemala or anywhere.

I am a scientist by many definitions, so occasionally I’ll put a microscope on 5 or 6 of senses and/or walk outside of my mind.

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Unlike these slug addicts, I just check experiences off my list, and for the most part dwell in the common reality. My money is spent on legal drugs like caffeine, sugar, and alcohol.  The logic behind which parts of nature are forbidden and who gets to decide what I consume is another topic for another day.

The simple fact is this: illegal goods are expensive.  Therefore these goods are moved from cheap production to buyers.  Guatemala is located between production (South America) and the market (North America).

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According to Business Insider, “In the beginning, coffee was blamed for riots, seditious speech and Satan worship.”

= – =

DSC_0289Ginger beer is high on any hipster’s list.

This is what I have gathered from living here:

  • It’s rare to walk down the street in Antigua without at least 3 people saying in quiet, bad English, “Smoke week?  Cocaine?”  Maybe it’s the earrings and colorful clothing I wear.
  • The shoe shiners, walking around all day with polish and a brush, are really drug dealers.
  • Backpackers often carry cocaine, MDMA, and marijuana.  I don’t know how they get it, but it seems to be easy.
  • Acid is rare and I have only ever seen mushrooms in at spiritual destinations.
  • It is said that the weed is pretty weak compared to places where it’s legal like Colorado, California, Washington, and Vancouver.

[Rumor has it that DMT is easy to get in Guatemala, but I have not encountered it in my 2 months here, nor in 2 months in Honduras.  Because I don’t actively seek anything illegal, my knowledge is limited to word of mouth .]

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It’s really just ginger and sugar.  The lime and carbonation are optional.  If you want to be really gangster about it, use yeast to naturally create the fizziness.

= – =

Interesting “facts” I have read:

  • With increased pressure on the Mexican border, drug traffic is taking a detour via boats and planes from Guatemala.
  • Somewhere between 60%-80% of cocaine in the United States passed through Central America.
  • According to SECCATID, around 3% of Guatemalans use “drugs”.  Population 15.5 million.
  • Around 9.4% of U.S. citizens use these “drugs”.  Population 300 million.
  • Possession gets you 4 months – 2 years in Guatemalan prison.  Planting = 5 to 20 years.  Trafficking = 12 – 20 years.
  • Prison population in Guatemala: 16,336.  This is about 0.1% of the population.
  • Prison population in U.S.: 2,200,000 or 0.7%, making it the largest in the world.

= – =

It seems that keeping a substance illegal ensures a high price, which ensures that most people are not willing to pay for it.  Out of the 2-1/2 million people that die in the U.S. each year, half are from Major Cardio-vascular diseases (according to the CDC in Atlanta, GA). All illicit drugs combined amount to 17,000 deaths.  Death from marijuana = zero.

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What else do you want to know about?

More reasons to go to Guatemala

Here are some reasons to visit Guatemala.

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Go to an art school

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with a view

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and connected to the state of Georgia.

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Start with the basics

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and learn how to do this

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or learn to bake a delicious cake

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or paint madness.

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They have carpentry classes, if you are looking for something more practical.

DSC_0024Here’s a reason for Mama to visit.

DSC_0160You can rent a room in a cozy house
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for $100 / month

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in a nice neighborhood.

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You can visit weird stores

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and impressive parks

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or chill in the woods

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just don’t forget to smell the flowers. 

What else do you want to learn about?

Ask in the comments!

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.

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

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My going rate is 2 cold beers/hr.

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

= – =

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

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

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= – =

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

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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.”

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= – =

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.

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= – =

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.

= – =

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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…

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

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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.)

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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.)

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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!)

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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!)

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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

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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.

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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

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Guatemalan landscapes are much better viewed from a dirtbike

“You can’t teach soul.” -Mario Loor

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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.

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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)

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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?!?!


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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.


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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.   ]]]===—

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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.

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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.

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“It’s either real or in a dream

There’s nothing that is in between”

-Jeff Lynne

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“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

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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.

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“Stormy seas make a skillful sailor.”

-book that Patrick Storey and Kenzie are reading