A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: luzygiovis

Mi Querido Mexico

The journey continues...


As many of you know, I have wanted to move to Mexico or at least come and stay a while for ages, so I figured, what better time than now!

I'm headed to Oaxaca City for the Galeagetza festival and will see where the wind blows me from there. Oaxaca is a gorgeous, colonial town and I think I'll spend a few days there getting to know the city. Maybe head to the beautiful Oaxaca beaches after and who knows what else!

I have a one way ticket to Oaxaca - we'll see when I come back. :)

Saludos a todos!!

Posted by luzygiovis 02:48 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Holy Mole! Oaxaca City...

Zocalo and the Guelaguetza Festival!


After three wonderful months in Asia with my mama my new adventure has begun and it’s time to get moving again. I thought it would be easier to leave this time, but I was wrong. This is a completely different kind of trip; I’m not with my mom, or anyone else for that matter. This time, I’m off to the homeland, alone. All alone. Woah, that’s heavy. I am dying to get to know my country. I’m curious as to what I will find, what I will learn, who I will meet. I'm getting my new business off the ground (importing all the beautiful things from all over the world to the U.S.) My plans go as far as getting to Oaxaca for the Gueleaguetza festival and then see where the wind blows me. This is both incredibly exciting and a bit daunting, but I'm looking for a bit of adventure, a lot of culture and some luck to find me.

Secretly I doubt that I have what it takes, whatever it takes, to head off alone to Mexico. In light of this, my determination to go seriously puzzles me. Why now? Maybe it’s a feeling that if I don’t do this now, soon I will wake up trapped in my future, wondering or wishing or regretting not doing this. Sometimes I seriously believe that in all my years of work and study, I’m not sure I actually learned anything. I gained intellectual skills and tools, yes, but what did I actually know? I want to throw myself into an experience that is too big for me and learn in a way that cost me something. This is going to cost me something…

I'm in Oaxaca, staying at Mezcalito Hostel. A colorfully painted, hammock hanging, open aired place five minutes from the Zocalo. I am staying in the girls dorm with 7 other girls. I arrived a few of days ago, a little nervous to be travelling by myself, with the question I got from several people before leaving looming through my head “do you know anybody in Oaxaca?” I would shake my head no, but silently, in my head, I said “but I will!” My one great travel talent is that I can make friends with anybody. This is why I’m not afraid to travel to remote places of the world, as long as there a people there to meet. I spent my first day on my own and on the second day here I met a group of travelers, all traveling on their own as well, that have all adopted each other and we've been enjoying this town like you wouldn't believe.

I love everything about this city. The smells, sounds, streets, food, perfect warm weather, the energy...every turn on any given cobble stoned street leaves me wide eyed at what I find.
Santo Domingo Church

We've found the way to Oaxaca's heart is the zocalo. It is, besides one of the most beautiful central squares in Mexico, the life centre of Oaxaca. The leafy, cafe-lined area has a little of everything. There are couples canoodling, shoe shiners, occasional demonstrators, street clowns, xylophonists and persistent peddlers selling hand-carved combs, shawls and hammocks. I've spent a few hours sitting here, watching all the people sitting at little tables in the restaurants and cafes, deep in conversation, from very early in the morning, until late into the night. The conversation can be accompanied, depending on the moment, by the famous Oaxacan chocolate caliente (yum!), cafe de olla, Mezcal (double yum!), tequila, fruit juices, or Mexican beer served with lots of lime and salt.

Imagine this: a stroll down any one of the cobblestoned streets leads you to walls lined with brightly hued colonial facades, arched windows, gorgeous churches, food to die for (this is the land of seven moles), unique art galleries filled with dreamlike paintings, great museums, some of the best shopping in Mexico and so much more. At night, there is nothing better than the late-night food market or street stalls where vendors dole out my new favorite, gigantic and cheap tlayudas — hugely oversized tortillas stuffed with cheese, beans, salsa and carne asada then folded in half and grilled. All for about 20 pesos!

Typical Street at night

Our little group is fabulous and we get along like a little family on vacation - always happy, laughing and can't get enough of each other. I couldn't ask for better instant friends. There is Javier, Luis and Zuri - a trio that continuously keeps us cracking up, who are professional dancers from Mexico City; Pepe, an outgoing and energy filled DF-eno that now lives in Chicago. Lydia, a beautiful smart girl inside and out, from London. Ryan, a smart gringito who is fully bi-lingual (surprised me!) from Connecticut and me. We have gone picture crazy and spend a lot of our time in gorgeous places, posing for funny shots. I love it.

Our familia posing with Pedro Infante

I’m bad, or rather lazy on researching a place before I arrive there. I tend to just show up and see what happens. What this normally means is that I end up standing at the bus, train or airport station, staring blankly at my guide book, wondering which direction I should head to find a place to stay. Thankfully, on this trip, I am traveling with a couple of planners and I happily follow the group without making many decisions that to me are unimportant.
We have gone around town and back again, visited several historic places, great restaurants, even better street vendors, fun bars, went to a fabulous outdoor play, hitched rides on the back of a pick-up truck to surrounding pueblos like San Martin Tiljate, felt privileged to see the Galeagetza and the list continues. The culture in Oaxaca is endless.

San Martin Tiljate, mini Galeagetza festival

I’ve learned that sometimes when you are traveling you keep yourself in a sort of “bubble”, seeing what you should see while there, following a crowd or a guide book. We have popped that bubble these last few days and does it feel oh so good!

Monte Alban's (Awesome Archeological Site)

I'm loving this city and feel blessed to be here, surrounded by the beauty that only a Mexican town like this can bring and great people to share my experiences with.

Adios for now.

Posted by luzygiovis 23:32 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Oaxaca's Beaches



I left Oaxaca City to head to the beautiful beaches in the south. My friends left a day early and I stayed behind to do shopping for my new import business. It was a great day of exploring, getting to know the unique local arts and crafts, talking to artisans, taking pictures and spending some money.

I got on a van and headed to Mazunte, a relaxed, tiny, hippy beach town with a fine, white, curving sandy beach. I found my friends at one of the posadas (hotel) by the beach with a spectacular view of the beach from high on a cliff. The place was borderline decrepit, but the view made it worth it at least to stay for a couple of days.

Sunrise on the hammock...

We spent our days in Mazunte relaxing, reading, swimming, writing and getting to know each other more. Our scheduled two days there quickly turned to eight. Mazunte and the surrounding beaches are addicting. We met a couple of new friends at a tour we took our of Puerto Angel beach who turned out to be great additions to our familia. Sarah and Justin, both from the U.S. joined us in Mazunte and we didn’t leave each other’s sides for some time after that.

Mazunte’s charm made it hard to leave, but we finally did and headed to Puerto Escondido, a surfer’s paradise with several beaches intermingling with one another. We stayed a few days and did a little more relaxing, great eating, took surfing lessons (I love this new sport!!!), explored the surrounding beaches (Carrizalillo, Zicatela, Puerto Angelito and more).

Surfin´in Mexico!

My favorite thing we did in Puerto Escondido hands down was a night trip to Laguna Manialtepec to see phosphorescent plankton, a magnificent occasional occurrence that comes and goes as it pleases. It was like tiny fireflies in the water. Like a galaxy of stars on the surface that ignited only with movement. Fish would swim by that looked like they were on fire (only the fire was green). We got to a spot in the middle of the lagoon and stopped and after only a ½ second hesitation, jumped in the water. It was such an odd feeling – plankton was all over us and glowing. It was alive! The more you moved, the more you saw it. We went underwater and opened our eyes and you could see it. We dove down deep and burst up to the surface and it was like some kind of scary movie. You could cup your hands and see it. We even peed in the water to see what would happen (yep, you could see it). After getting out, I moved my bathing suit and it was still there, clinging on. The experience was awesome. Being out in the middle of the night in a lagoon in Mexico swimming with phosphorescent plankton? Are you kidding me?? This was a good day…

Breakfast at the hostel

Life is good...

How can you beat swimming with phosphorescent plankton? Well, I don’t think you can, but a visit to Chacahua was a nice follow up to it. Our combi ride headed west from Puerto Escondido climbed hills and descended into several river valleys. We then took a speed boat that dropped us off to an ancient chevy truck with an equally ancient owner of the truck that drove us through the desert to Chacahua village. There, we walked into one of the campsites on the beach where you can camp for free as long as you consume there. And consume we did. The food consisted of freshly caught anything from the ocean only about 25 yards away, cooked by two plump and friendly ladies, both descendants of African slaves who escaped from the Spanish (just as much of the areas’ inhabitants).

Lidya, Sarah and I

We met a few locals that offered to take us on a tour of the area the next morning. We got up and feasted on fresh caught fish and squid and headed out into the lagoon on a small paddle boat. We paddled to another small beach where we had some coronas to refuel and then took a hike up to the top of a hill where there was a pretty lighthouse which we promptly climbed up to get a view from the top. The climb up the shaky and crumbly steps was worth it, as the view from the top of all of Chacahua both beach and lagoon was magnificent. The virgin beaches seemed to go on forever and the lagoon and it’s thousands of birds seemed to do a show for us down below.

After the hike, we went into the mangroves in the lagoon, looking for crocs and other wildlife. The best we found were tiny, fast moving ,fire engine red crabs, some cool looking birds and a couple of water snakes. The trip was fabulous though, as we helped our guide paddle through the vines and get out on the other side of the lagoon.

Chacawa Mangroves

We never imagined Chacahua was going to be so beautiful and only planned to stay one night before heading back to Puerto Escondido to catch our bus to San Cristobal de Las Casas. Too bad, because we could have stayed here for quite a while. Swinging on our hammocks, reading, sleeping, swimming in the ocean and lagoon, drinking out of coconuts, eating fresh caught fish…one day is just not enough!

Back to Puerto Escondido and we’ve had enough with the party, surfer scene of this place and we’re headed to San Cristobal de Las Casas on a 12 hour overnight bus. We’re all excited to get to a city and to see what awaits us there. Our group has now grown to six people and we get along fabulously. We prepare for the trip by buying tortas, wine, cookies and pirated movies to watch on my laptop. Until next time!

Posted by luzygiovis 16:39 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Palenque's Ruins



Enough with Merida’s heat…I’m off to Palenque to get some more Mayan ruins and jungle in my life. The 8 hour overnight bus ride with a couple of friends I had met a few nights before was a piece of cake and we arrived in Palenque at 6:30 am. Palenque town is not high on the must-see list, as it’s a sweaty place with little character, but it’s got anything you might need.

We caught a colectivo (public transport van) and got dropped off at El Panchan, a 10 minute drive towards the ruins and a backpacker favorite for its perfect jungle setting and its proximity to the ruins. For 50 pesos per person (a bout $5), we each got a cabaña, surrounded by tall, leafy trees filled with all sorts of birds, each making their own unique calls and making the setting that much more authentic. There are even families of monkeys jumping from branch to branch!

I met a few more travelers once here, and decided to take a tour of the nearby waterfalls, Misol-Ha and Agua Azul. After the 20 kilometer drive south, we arrived at the cascades of Misol-Ha. The place, although small, is in a very pretty setting, the fall of water is over 35 meters high and dives into a wide “pool” that is surrounded by impossibly green foliage and huge stones, carved by the water through the years. I wished I had my hammock to put up and take a nap to the crashing sounds of the falls, but I left the cabaña a little unprepared.

Off to Agua Azul, another 40 kilometer run and we arrived at its not-so-blue waters due to rain in the surrounding hills. I befriended a couple of girls from Israel and we went exploring the gorgeous space together. We were again surrounded by lush, green jungle, but this time the falls are long, strong and very beautiful. We hiked about 2 kilometers to the mouth of the falls and found a tiny “beach” where we dove into its cold waters. It was so refreshing with the intense jungle heat. After finding some local kids swinging off branches into a deep area, we quickly joined them and played for a while until we worked up and appetite and headed down to find some food. After a mango with lime and chili, some jicama and empanadas, we were happily full and ready to head back. I passed out cold on the 1.5 hour ride back to Palenque.

When I got back, Pepe had arrived from San Cristobal and we caught up on our week of travels apart. Headed to get Ilyana, Vic and Roy and had a great dinner from one of the two local restaurants while chatting, watching a fire show and having some chelas (beer). The group meshed immediately and we brought the silly out of each other – dinner was full of laughs. After we headed to the “late night” spot (it was around 12 by this point), La Palapa, where we danced for hours to salsa, meringue, cumbia and who knows what else. I knew the night was a success when Ilyana and I did a choreographed orangutan dance to the music.

The next morning we met the group and had breakfast while recapping our hilarious night out. Our two friends from Merida (Roy and Erik from Holland) arrived that morning and joined us. As the rest left to head to San Cristobal, the four of us decided to go explore the ruins.

Jungle flowers

The Palenque ruins are strategically situated on top of tall hills and in the middle of some of the densest forest I have seen yet. The ruins are impeccably kept, some of the prettiest and most impressive so far on this trip. We got a great guide, Mateo, who explained details of the Mayan culture and beliefs, some of which are still hard practiced. After climbing el Templo del Sol, you get a breathtaking view of the excavated ruins, but also the uncovered hills all around that are the buried sites yet to be truly discovered. The Mayan architecture is impressive and purposeful and we only got to see 2% of what was once Palenque at the peak of its power!

Palenque from the top

Snapped right outside my hut

After the ruins we went to get some tacos and re-fueled for our tour into the jungle. Mateo, a native Palenqueño and of Mayan decent was extremely familiar with the jungle around the ruins and showed us several medicinal plants, still used to this day, natural dyes (used 1500 years ago to paint the stucco on the ruins), gave us a snack of termites (which actually tasted like parsley) and fresh picked snails cracked and eaten straight from a little stream. We washed the snails down with the streams cool and refreshing water. He took us to a great little hidden waterfall, which we quickly started climbing until we could climb no more. Later, when I got bit by some bug on the arm, Mateo quickly found a plant which he rubbed on the sting and it immediately made it go away. I always find it amazing that we are surrounded by these natural remedies and we live in such an extreme pill society…

Termite lunch!

Fun to climb!

I’m loving El Panchan, Palenque and the tranquility of the cabin, the jungle and all its crazy sounds; even the howler monkey which sounds like a small lion (a bit scary in the middle of the night). We will stay about 5 days then we’re off to the Lacandon jungle to explore for a few days. After, it’s Guatemala time!!

Stay tuned for more!
Love and muchos besos from Mi Querido Mexico!

Posted by luzygiovis 07:13 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Guatemala - Colorful, Friendly & Delicious!

Quetzaltenango (Xela)


After staying in San Cristobal quite a lot longer than we originally planned, we finally were able to get ourselves to Guatemala (Guate) – a month late, but who’s counting!? The trip from San Cristobal was a beautiful bumpy 8 hour drive ride through green mountains, active and dormant volcanoes covered by jungles and forest that intermingle on the slopes. We arrived in beautiful Quetzaltenango (otherwise known as Xela) in the western part of Guate around 4:00 pm on Sunday. The zocalo was filled with people, music, food, balloons – you name it. We quickly found out that it’s their patron saints, La Virgen del Rosario, celebration. What perfect timing!

We searched a bit for a place to stay we found a nice, quiet hotel with private rooms for 25 quetzales per person - which is a little over $3. We waited out the afternoon rains that often hit Xela around that time, and headed out into the zocalo. Walking into the crowd, I felt like a giant. Almost all of the people from Xela are of indigenous blood and are most adorably short, with skin the color of the earth. They have a deeper indigenous look about them and are friendlier than the people in southeastern Mexico.

The town is picturesque, with its Spanish and German style buildings that give an almost gothic and mysterious feel to the place. We fell in love with it immediately. The fair was a smorgasbord of colors, flavors and sounds. We ate, and ate, and ate some more as we stopped every so often to listen to a local marimba band and danced and digested, only to go and eat more. The food here is fabulous. We already love it here and don’t think we will be leaving after the originally planned overnight trip.

Xela at Night[/i]

The next day, we headed to a pretty hill town about 10 kilometers from Xela called Zunil. It was market day, so there was a ton of vendors in the market, but the rains kept the energy a little low. After, we hitched a ride to the hot springs of Las Georginas and spent a few hours relaxing in the thermal, sulfurous waters, set in the middle of the jungle in the gorgeous hills that overlooked Guatemala’s largest volcano, Volcan Santa Maria. The water was incredibly hot and we couldn’t stand being in there for more than 2 – 3 minutes at a time, but it was so relaxing and such a peaceful and calm spot, that we dunked ourselves in and out as often as we could stand it. Each time, coming out more relaxed than the last.

Natural Hot Springs (on an active volcano...)

I could barely stand the water...it was so hot...

After a couple of hours, we met our driver, Marcos, and headed back to Zunil, where we caught a chicken bus (wildly painted, old school buses used to transport anything including people, food, animals and yes, chickens, from one place to the next) to the next town. There, we hitched a ride on the back of a pick-up, froze with the cold wind, into Xela. We had worked up an appetite and headed to a Guatemalan restaurant where we tried everything the owner, Dona Lucia suggested. It was all fabulous, full of flavor and everything that came out was more delicious than the last. I didn’t think that after Mexico I would be so fulfilled with food, but I was wrong. Guatemalan food is beyond tempting!

I have a rough cold today after the hot-cold-hot-cold changes from yesterday and I’m laying in bed, in my brightly colored room, drinking fresh squeezed orange juice out of a plastic bag and resting to get better.

All is well in my world. I sincerely hope all is well in yours. Until next time! Adios 

Posted by luzygiovis 09:20 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

A Little Piece of Paradise on Lake Atitlan

Jaibalito Village, Guatemala


I’m sitting in my “office” at the house I’m renting in Jaibalito. My “office” consists of a simple, splintery, wood table and a plastic chair, placed strategically on my porch, facing the lake. I’m having a hard time focusing on the computer, when my views are of two majestic volcanoes, clear, calm waters, pine trees, palm trees and vegetation that looks like it’s out of Jurassic park – huge leaved plants that the locals use as umbrellas during the rainy season. I have never felt so at peace in a place, listening to nothing but the water flowing, birds chirping, dogs barking and children laughing. Being alone here is a therapy that I never imagined to touch me so deeply.

Mi little casa

My tiny home is straddled by a creek that lulls me to sleep every night and every time I lay on my hammock, and by a friendly, indigenous family who live in a tiny and simple typical Guatemalan adobe home. The kids are on a break from school, so every day they fill their hours by running up and down their lush land, coming over and curiously looking at me and run away giggling when I look at them, collecting avocados and leña (fire wood) for their kitchen stove and of course, flying kites. I can’t recall a passion for flying kites (other than India of course) by children. They make them themselves, out of bamboo sticks and used plastic bags. They are tiny and frail, but they fly. And oh, how they love them. An oh, how I love to watch them.

This is a rare purchased kite....unfortunetly, I didn't get a shot of the home-made ones!

To get to Jaibalito, there is only a path through the high cliffs behind the town (no thanks) or through a lancha (“speed” boat). The dock is close to my home and I can hear the lanchas starting early in the morning until about 7:30 at night. If you miss your lancha in or out of here, you are staying the night. Simple as that. This consistency of this schedule has turned out to be so good for me – I have to be home by a certain time or I don’t get home at all. Having been travelling for so many months now, without a schedule, without having to get back anywhere at any time, having to get back and walking into my quiet home brings an easiness to me that I didn’t know I was craving or missing. I love this place.

Lancha on the lake

The highlands of Guatemala (where Lago Atitlan sits) are filled by small towns, each with a different story, each with a different indigenous group, each with its own Mayan dialects. The traditional values and customs of Guatemala’s indigenous people are strongest here and I sometimes feel like I’m in a country in Southeast Asia, not in Central America as their dialects are the first language spoken and Spanish is a distant second. Lago Atitlan is a collapsed volcanic cone almost as deep as the Grand Canyon, filled with shimmering, cool water. The lake is majestic, surrounded by volcanoes (three of them active) and lime colored hills that get fed by the constant rainy season. But now that the rains are gone, the land is simply glorious.

If you click on this you can see that I'm screaming my head off...

I have visited numerous towns around the lake with my good friends who I travelled here with and on my own. Each town is so unique both in the style of their buildings and roads, to the distinctive clothing worn by the indigenous people living there, mostly the women who wear huipiles (oversized tops, intricately hand stitched and tucked into a corte or skirt held by a faja or cloth embroidered belt). Think of it this way, it would be like your neighborhood wears a hand woven and stitched outfit with blue and red vertical lines, and purple, red and indigo flowers, while the next neighborhood (only 2 kilometers away) speaks a different dialect, wears a red and green outfit with squares and pink, blue and yellow woven flowers. The women wrap their hair around their head with different thin woven fabrics, resembling a crown, to allow them to work without their hair getting in the way, but keeping their femininity by keeping their hair long.

Head wrap!

I’m starting to learn the different patterns and colors of the clothing and on the lanchas or on the streets I often stop them and ask if they are from the places I guess. I’m wrong most of the time, as there are so many villages around here. They almost gasp when I guess wrong and then slowly explain to me, with the patience of a kindergarten school teacher, how to tell the difference between them and the other hundred + villages’ designs. I smile, I nod, I say “ohhhh, si” and walk away thinking, huh?? The only difference sometimes is the shape of the neck of the huipil or the hand stitched flowers are on the back not the front. I think I will need several years here to begin to get it…and that’s okay, because I really think I could very easily spend several years trying.

Elena from Chichicastenango

I’ve been doing a lot of shopping around here. It’s almost impossible not to, with so much beauty in all the arts and crafts. I sit in yet another indigenous person’s home, on a tiny little chair, feeling so welcomed and have to pinch myself sometimes as a reminder that this is my job. My little company (Shkaa’la) is coming together. I’m here to help them (even if only little by little), buy their crafts, sell them and come back for more. A sale of one of their pieces to me means they will eat for a week. When I ask about selling me 10 of them it is almost shocking. The fact that I offer to pay them more than they ask is unbelievable. This is my job. I’m so thankful it’s hard to put into words…I am humbled beyond words. I walk out of each and every home filled with gratitude and love, knowing that I will come back, bearing fruit for the kids and money to buy more things from the parents. I’m deliriously happy doing this…

Three adorable kids, their mother weaves huipiles I purchase...

Posted by luzygiovis 09:21 Archived in Guatemala Tagged boating Comments (0)

Heading Home

Back to the States for a month

sunny 78 °F

I close my eyes and think of my journey ahead, from Lake Atitlan, to Guatemala City to Miami to DC to San Diego, then back to DC. It exhausts me to type it, let alone go through with it. As odd as it sounds, I am vaguely afraid to leave Guatemala, afraid that the magic I have found here won’t be here when I come back. Afraid the doors will snap shut and I will end up on the wrong side. I am afraid that I will not find my way back. It is irrational, I know. I can come back whenever I want. I even have a ticket for a month from now. Just get on a plane and be back, but still. I can’t imagine going home. I tell myself I have to go home someday, right? You can’t live here forever, right? I don’t see why not…

I feel like I’m in a time warp. I feel exhausted when I remember my last year in San Diego. Rushing to work, the grocery store, the bank, yoga, dinner, a meeting. The feeling of never catching up, fearing that I never would because there was so much to do and see and buy. But here, I have time in abundance. There is no one to catch up to, and I don’t have to be anywhere but here. I have no idea what is happening in the outside world, how political races are going, what wars or famines are being turned into ten-second news clips, what incredible new technologies are revolutionizing the way people communicate or shop. I haven’t worn a watch since February. I’m getting pretty good at telling time by the sun. I have fallen into this world effortlessly. I am in love with the landscape, the way the lake calmly moves in pretty waves, the way the volcanoes cough out white, puffy clouds of smoke. I love the quality of the light as the sun rises above the mountains in the morning, hitting the cool water and waking the rooster next door; and the dazzling display of orange hues as it falls on the other side a few hours later. I am in love with the simplicity of my life, my plain little house, the shelves empty of ornaments, the unadorned walls, the two pots I use to cook with, my hammock.

Everything about my life I left behind seems small and narrow in comparison with where I am now. Everything I imagine in that life is, for lack of a better word, a bit repulsive to me right now: a pretty house near the beach, a fancy car that I will hate because it guzzles gas, $8 drinks at happy hour filled with chatter and broken promises, “we should get together and catch up”. Sprinklers keeping the lawn green in the desert while we sit in air-conditioned offices, sealed off from the elements, safe and smug. Part of me knows this is unfair to my friends and family there, I get that, I was part of it for so long, but the rest of me doesn’t care. I can see only what I have now, right here, with Charlie, my pet rooster who feeds on my daily pile of scraps I leave for him daily and the local people surrounding me. I feel like I don’t want to go home yet. But I have to.

I’ll be back though…

Posted by luzygiovis 20:37 Archived in Guatemala Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

What traveling means to me...

The perfect quote

“Traveling is the great true love of my life. To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice. I am loyal and constant in my love for travel as I have not always been loyal and constant in my other loves. I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless newborn baby. I just don’t care what it puts me through, because I adore it, because it’s mine, because it looks just like me, it can barf all over me if it wants to. I just don’t care.”

Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)

Posted by luzygiovis 12:07 Comments (0)

Where is Home??

Slightly confused...

sunny 60 °F

I’m home. Well…sort of. Well…I’m really not sure where home is anymore these days. Is it San Diego, where I last lived? Where what’s left of my belongings are stored? Where most of my friends are? Is it Virginia, where I grew up? Where my mother and sister live? Where yet another group of close friends are? Well, whatever. I’m in Virginia.

Aidan the goat

Bath time!

I get “home” and it’s an instantaneous rush. Rush of happiness to see my mom, sister and godson. Rush for time. Rush to see everyone. Rush of awareness. Rush to get ready for the Shkaa’la sale. But in the midst of all the rush, I feel slow. I think slowly, I react slowly. If it wasn’t for my mom, the sale would have never happened. But, in the blur and rush of everything around me, I realize I am more mindful. I stop often to give thanks to God for this and for everything I can think of. “Thank you God for such a wonderful mother…thank you for this comfortable bed…thank you for his beautiful day…” and the list goes on. I find I’m thankful and thankful and for the first time I’m actually stopping to give thanks. But I can see how it would evaporate here quickly without consistent daily practice.

Everything here is glossy and polished and in order. The streets are perfect, the houses are pretty, there are people walking their clean dogs around their clean block. I can’t take it all in. In my sister’s house, I am overwhelmed by the number things. I actually miss out on parts of conversations because I am lost in looking at, well, everything. Walls covered with hundreds of pictures, posters, calendars, post-its, clocks, paintings. Everywhere I look there is some thing to look at. Television is incomprehensible. The images fly out of the screen too fast, what used to be dialogue between characters sounds like noise now. Television exhausts me. In San Diego, at Mike’s house for Sunday football, their 10 televisions are always on, each on a different game and it is overwhelming. During the week, dinner is in front of the TV, Chad clicking from channel to channel, “nothing on” he says, but it’s kept on nonetheless. Outside I’m amazed by the traffic, the rush, the speed at which people walk, talk, drive. Thousands of cars on the highway, all going the same direction, most with only one person inside. I think of the gasoline consumed, the carbon monoxide produced, the money so easily spent, the absolute waste of it, one car for one person. When making plans with a friend over the phone I tell her I’ll be taking the bus downtown. I could almost see her rolling her eyes. “That’s ridiculous, you’re not taking the bus I’m coming to get you,” she says. “What’s wrong with the bus?” I say. She dropped it, like there was nothing to discuss.

The number of stores are overwhelming, the number of things being bought and sold, things that people hardly need or come to think of it, probably don’t even want but for some reason must have. There are more Starbucks than I care to count and they actually make me mad, annoy me. I’m not an economist by any means, but after Guatemala and Southeast Asia, it is clear that this economy is not sustainable or sane. It is completely out of control. It’s hard for me to watch…

I feel that I have changed, and changed, and changed and it seems strange that after nine months, everyone here is still talking about the same things. I realize this all sounds so one sided, and it is. This is what I know now. I hope I never let it go…but I also know that I love both worlds, the problem is, I only love parts of each. Both worlds represent extremes in many ways, extreme wastefulness and extreme poverty, extreme privacy and extreme reliance on community. I wonder where in the world it would be possible to have the ideal middle way, a balance of sorts. I cannot begin to imagine where this would be.

Posted by luzygiovis 21:09 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Back to Guatemala - 1st Stop - Antigua!

sunny 70 °F

So, I’m going back to Guatemala after a crazy and fun month in the states, so ready for my old, slow and steady but wobbly schedule. I’m ready to go find more families, more treasures, more artisans, sit with them, learn from them…

My first few days are spent in picturesque Antigua. A town so cute, it almost looks like a movie set. It is considered the prettiest city in Central America. I immediately love it here. Its narrow cobble stone streets, its churches in every corner, each more beautiful than the last, its zocalo, always filled with musicians and fresh fruit vendors. The backdrop is comprised of three active volcanoes that puff out smoke that make every picture seem like a postcard. This place looks like they had someone brought in just to make it picture perfect. They did a great job I might add.

Streets of Antigua

My stay at the Black Cat hostel is comfortable and fun. I am in a dorm with five guys who are all friendly, sarcastic and entertaining. I spend days with Dan from Canada, a super nice guy and a stud of a guy, walking around town, taking pictures, eating and talking. We get along fabulously.

One of the many churches in Antigua

Picturesque Zocalo in Antigua

After a few days in Antigua, I am dying to get back to Lake Atitlan. On my 3 hour bus ride there, I look at the pretty landscape and start getting all dreamy. Then, just like that, I come to a realization that I may have made Guatemala and specially Lake Atitlan, sound like la-la land. Although I understand that in my own little corner of it, it was. But for most indigenous people of Guatemala, life is hard, life is a struggle, life is figuring out where your next meal will come from. This is their reality.

“In Guatemala, indigenous Mayan people have been driven from their land due to years of civil war and are now struggling to secure their most basic needs and rights. Mayan women face even greater hurdles than men in satisfying basic survival needs for themselves and their children. These women are typically undernourished, uneducated, and occupied with the care of young children. In some cases, they are confronted with domestic violence or abandoned by husbands who leave to seek work or new lives elsewhere. Forty percent of Guatemalan women are illiterate, and this rate is even higher among indigenous women, 93% of whom live in poverty”. Let me repeat that, 93 % live in poverty. Take a moment to take that in.

So, just like that, I have come to realize that I need to deconstruct my love for the landscapes of Guatemala. I have been projecting things onto the place. Things that I feel my own culture is missing. The pre-industrialized world, the communion with nature, the simple life…but in that moment of dumb shock, I realized that these people are poor. Duh! Yes, they are content with what they have, but it’s because what they have is all they know. How deep do those values go? Their lifestyle is not a matter of choice but a function of their environment. If they could have cars and refrigerators, iPods and DVD players, they would. I want this place to keep all those consumer goods out just because they ruin my quaint notion of an untouched magical little world.

Next time I stop to watch a family carrying firewood on their heads up a steep slope, or planting vegetables on 45 degree angles on the base of a volcano, I feel some of my sentimental attachment has gone away. The family stands oddly downhill, backs bent as they pick corn, beans, potatoes, their hands fast and unerring. Down a ways from the sloped field, a girl of about three carries a baby wrapped on her back with a broad hand-woven cloth. Standing there with my Eagle Creek backpack I am aware of two possible versions: A postcard picture named Rural Farms, Guatemala, or I can see a family bent over the earth in aching, backbreaking labor, the ghost of two children dead of some easily preventable disease, and not enough money for all the surviving children to buy shoes. It is too easy to romanticize and get dreamy in this place. The landscape cannot answer back, cannot say, no you are wrong, life here is different but all of it added up it is not any better. You can love this landscape because your life does not depend on it. It is merely a pretty backdrop for the other life you can always return to, a life in which you will not be a farmer barely scraping a living out of difficult terrain. I realize, I love the view, but I would not want the life.

Sometimes when describing Guatemala or Laos or Thailand or Cambodia or Vietnam, people sigh and say oh how lovely. They want to believe in these places I used to believe in, a simple life, a Shangri-La, the fair-tale places I imagined for so many years. But fairy-tales don’t have villages filled with trash and without a clean water supply, or four-year-olds dying of dysentery or some other easily preventable and treatable disease. People don’t want to hear this, no, no, no. Nor do they want to hear my criticisms of life in America. Everyone wants cleaner, simpler, safer, saner world but no one wants to give up anything. No one wants to take the bus.

Posted by luzygiovis 22:00 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Words From a Good Friend

Here is a section of and email a good friend wrote me not too long ago. I loved the message, the straight forwardness of it (just her style) and wanted to share:

"I can imagine it’s slightly weird and strangely comforting to feel yourself becoming more and more removed from this type of life. I just crack up when I see how much you are experiencing, how you’re experiencing, really living, and how things stay the same here. If you were to come back to the office tomorrow, within a few days at the most things would be just as they were when you left. And having seen another side now, you gotta wonder if that’s really how it is supposed to be. Life is only as complicated as we make it, our choices as restrictive as we let them be. I bet you feel empowered. Besides grateful!"

I am. I'm so grateful I actually give thanks for being grateful, often...

Posted by luzygiovis 21:53 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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