Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Medellin Mullet.

What kind of barber without borders would I be if I wasnt blogging about amazing international hairstyles? Well, here it goes. Be careful what you wish for!!!

In the city of Medellin, one of Colombias major cities, the mullet seems to be amazingly popular. Funny considering the weather is sort of hot, I would think the citizens of Medellin would not want to hold the heat on their necks to the degree that they do. I am honestly impressed with the level of mullets that exist, and clearly I found myself poaching pictures everywhere I went with this blog post in mind. All of these photos were poached with the exception of the "super mullet"(to be later described).

The mullet seems to be a popular hairstyle in many countries, including the country of my birth. However, its acceptance varies from country to country, and even from region to region within various countries. I think to not write too much, the pics speak for themselves. And when you imagine that I am poaching all these photos, its even funnier! Enjoy.



The top photo I will call the "Metro-Mullet", not because this guy is metro sexual, but because I poached this photo on the metro train that Medellin is famous for.

Next, we have the "She-Mullet", kinda grainy foto because I exercised the zoom on my camera as to not let this mullet escape its blog fame.

"Team-Mullet", seriously, this group of like six guys all had mullets, now that is male bonding!

The fourth photo is the only one I actually asked permission for, this Colombian teen thought I was a total wierdo, and he is right. With his purple jeans, there is no other title except "Super-Mullet" that will do for this stylish young man!(Sorry for the sideways pic, these computers are a pain to figure out, somehow I know it doesnt take away from this mullets glory)

And finally, I think the citizens of Medellin are actually born with mullets as "Baby-Mullet" proves in the last photo. This kid was with this younger brother, and they both had baby-mullets. So cute! Nothing like raising your kids to be confident with their lame hair.

There is about fifteen thousand more types of mullets in Medellin alone, but there is only so much time, and memory space on my camera.

To close, I had as much fun, if not more, planning and posting this amazing array of mullets, as you have all had reading it and laughing yourself to tears. I owe a special thanks to my buddy Noah for showing me around Medellin and being patient whilst I chased down mullets to photograph. Traveling is such good times, even if to only check out the hair!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Livin' la vida.

Offically left Bogotá yesterday, after nearly two weeks. The city with everything; good weather, set at the foot of beautiful mountains, dry air, lively city life and people, great food, great shopping, great looking men, and one of the largest cycling path networks in the world. Plus, every Sunday the city shuts down about 50 or so miles of main roads for the ciclovia, a chance for people to get out on their bikes, free of traffic. What a great place! Above photo is a partial view of Bogotá(and, no that tiny cluster of buildings is not downtown Botogá, downtown is much larger), taken from a mountain on the east side of the city called Monserrate,where there is built a 300-year-old church. Reached by cable car! Monserrate is viewable from everywhere in the city, obvioulsy.

This photo is a night shot of the celebration of Dia de las Velitas, Day of the Vigils, some holiday I personally have never heard of but is great because the Colombians line the streets with candles, stunning to see, and then they party in the streets(above pictured). I'm telling you, these people shut down the most main roads in the city for damn near everything. Screw traffic, let's party! I could have stood here for hours and just people watch, actually it's what I did.


I have come to the belief that this Homero Valdez t-shirt is my favorite t-shirt I have ever owned in my life. And that is saying something, because I have owned and currently own many rad tees. Latin America is a wonderland of Simpsons t-shirts. It´s like Grandpa Simpson and Juan Valdez had a coffee growing baby.


I'm currently in Medellín, another big Colombian city, with my buddy Noah that I met in Guatemala. He's been here for about two months and today we went to the DAS office so he could renew his visa. It was nice to get a chance to see what the hell it requires, but kind of boring to sit there and watch everything move in latino time. Obviously still adjusting from the rat-race that is my home country.

Certainly I prefer the pace of latino time.












Saturday, December 5, 2009

¿Como?

So cliché, but Colombia is amazing. Including the way they speak Spanish, which I´m not so sure is the same Spanish that I learned.

All I had previously understood about Colombia was how beautiful and well pronounced the Spanish is here. But after arriving I am of a different set of beliefs. The Spanish here is crazy, it is fast, and not as well pronounced as it´s made out to be.

Living in Guatemala, where I learned Spanish, I spoke and learned with Mayan indians. For the Mayans, Spanish is also their second language, after indigenous languages(very different from Spanish). Being their second language, plus living in a small town, the Spanish we spoke was not very advanced, and also spoken rather clearly. I communicated with no problems in Guatemala, and felt like a damn language genius for learning so quickly.

Here in Bogotá, oh my sweet baby Jesus, the Spanish is nuts. I knew I would have to adjust to a different accent, well, accents since different regions very in dialect just like USA. But there are situations were I may not understand a single word someone says to me. Now, that being said, I have made great strides in my first week here and am already feeling a lot more comfortable and confident when listening to the Colombians.

After my first couple of days here I was like, well there is only one way to learn how to speak with these people. I had to get brave, and it´s been working. Let me also just say, the Colombian men have no problem helping me through a conversation. They are probably just to happy to have the attention of a blonde. It´s great, I cannot lie about that.

So, when I arrived, I was like, "crap, what the hell, I have to learn Spanish all over again??". However, after a week, things are settling nicely, and my brain is a traffic jam of Spanish and English. Eventually the language highway will clear and all things will move smoothly through their respective lanes.

Such a beautiful city, beautiful people, and I am beginning to understand why Colombia is famous for it´s beautiful Spanish. This is truly the heart of Latin America, a thick and powerful energy oozes from the people and the culture here. The Colombians love life, amongst their incredible struggles and the violence that has permiated their socitey for years.

I am blessed to have been led to such a wonderfully unique place on Earth, and have already cried the words "¡Nunca salgo de Colombia!(I´m never leaving Colombia!)".

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Re-focus.

Having all this time to kill tonight, I was reading on fatcyclist.com. Basically an awesome blog mostly about cycling, but also the recent health decline and death from cancer of the author's wife. I was in all sorts of tears, blubbering like a fool, but for legitimate pain and heartbreak suffered by an extremely undeserving family.

But enough about Fatty. Sometimes when I have too much time to sit around doing nothing(ie: now)I get all wierd, depressed, moody and the like. These moods rarely last more than a few minutes and I have to remind myself that I am recovering from a virus that rocked my world, postponed my trip and is now filling my lungs with post-viral goo. That on top of the fact it has been a week since I've ridden my bike, my breaking point(I will ride tomorrow, come hell or high water, or high level lung goo).

I try my damndest to not live a day without realizing what a blessed existence I live. I am living my personal dream by being able to do exactly what it is I want to do. I have a healthy body(sick mind). I have a healthy family(sick minds), including the cutest nieces and nephews this world has ever seen. I have an amazing money making skill at my beckon call, something with which I am very good and enjoy thoroughly. I have all the "things" I want, basically meaning a passport, clothes, and bicycles. I have earned the respect of numerous people the world over. I have and have had powerful experiences that resemble things only stories can invent. I have been humbled by the positive reaction I cause in people. I have the ability to adapt to any situation(save winter), and can fall into any group of people and be one of them. I can go anywhere, do anything.

I have been blessed with the gift to inspire, a gift I do not take lightly and have only very recently come to fully accept and embrace.

I make people smile, I help people to dream.

I do not let negative people get me down, or negative situations bum me out. Rather, I am consistently thankful I am not living that existence and sometimes try to put a smile on the face or turn the mood of a particular cranky one. A silly dance usually does the trick. If you are currently not laughing, you have not seen my silly dancing.

I realize and live with the wisdom that nothing lasts forever, not the good, not the bad, so to embrace it is the only option. I believe one of the greatest gifts one can give oneself is the ability to live in the moment, right now, today. Why bother obsessing over yesterday and tomorrow? All we have is today, live in it!

I'm not trying to glorify myself and brag about how wonderful I am. I could fill equally as much space(if not more)with my mistakes, faults and struggles, but then that would completely defeat the purpose. It's those things I do not focus on, but work on and learn from instead, all the while keeping my good qualities on my side of the fight. How could I possibly achieve what I do in my life if I'm beating myself up as opposed to building myself up? Ask yourself that one.

I try my hardest to never forget these things, among the many others. No matter what happens to me, stupid changed plans, heartbreak, robberies, or whatever, I never lose sight of the fact that things can always, always be worse. This is not to say my life is easy, but in perspective, it is. I also never forget that this is something I have earned, nobody gave this to me. I chose this, as it is certainly a choice, and I work for it. I have been on the dark side, very, very dark, but I decided long ago, that stuff is not for me. Simple as that, with lots of hard work.

If anyone is ever feeling all sorry for themselves, fatcyclist.com, the July and August archives will change your perspective pretty quickly.

Even if it means making your own blog to write how great your life is, never lose sight of what is truly important.



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gettin' on a jet plane. . .NOT!

I'm writing this from my fancy laptop whilst flying over the Carribean on my way to Colombia, yay!! Oh, wait, that is in my fever hallucinations. In fact, I'm wearing like four layers of pajamas in an attempt to keep warm and feel semi-normal whilst fight off this demon virus that has kept me here in USA, still! Again!!

As is the way any and all of my epic trips have gone, this one would not have panned out appropriately if it had not changed dramatically just before it was supposed to happen. In fact, I am going to Colombia because of a trip that changed dramatically, and didn't even happen. Remember when I was "planning" on going to Africa to visit my sister?? Instead of going to Africa, I stayed and worked way too much, likely promoting this illness.

My flight to Colombia departed at 6:15am, this morning. Yesterday, after being in denial for three days about being sick, I could no longer deny when my fever spiked nearly three degrees in about as many minutes. Off to the doctor I went. At the clinic, I was diagnosed as not having the flu or strep, though my symptoms screamed of flu. Then what the hell do I have? I am led to believe that I have a case of "planned another trip", thus making sure it didn't happen.

Honestly, this is ridiculous. In the three months I have been here, I have missed six flights that I would have been on if everything would ever go even remotely as planned. First, I was supposed to go to Morocco, then from Morocco to Egypt and back, then from Morocco to back to USA, also had a return flight to Guatemala, and finally this one to Colombia. Impressive.

However, I have to realize that this is all a blessing in disguise as all my changed plans have always been. I really did work too much while I was here, leaving me no time to see friends and family. This affords me the opportunity to see people I love and care about. I was also really stressed about having enough time to properly prepare, which I am also relieved about. Every time this happens, which is every time, it always happens for just the right reasons, just the right timing and usually turns out to be beautiful and wonderful in ways I could never have imagined.

So as of right now, I am here in Colorado until next Friday night. And god only knows what could happen between now and then!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I love halloween!

Any holiday that is purely about costumes and candy is the greatest holiday anyone could have ever thought up. Rock on!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

D'oh!!


I spoke too soon on the whole "god help me if there is a blizzard before I leave" thing. I cannot honestly believe I am living through this again.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Note to self.

I honestly cannot believe I'm seeing goddamned snow fall outside. And for like the fifth time this month. Last time I checked, this is October, not December.

I am making a note-to-self about my new "weather safe-zone" here in Colorado. I used to think that maybe about the middle or end of April until about late November would be relatively safe for me to avoid the bulk of the cold and crappy weather in Colorado. Well, woe is me, I have made a foolish mistake! I am realizing that my new "weather safe-zone" in Colorado has shrunk to June through September. That's right, summer, and summer only. This stupid fall, and I know stupid spring, can be just as gnarly as the beast winter itself. I mean what's the point of naming these seasons separately anyways. I shall start to call them cold unpredictable crap and summer.

I know that me being in Colorado right now was very unexpected, unplanned and to be honest, undesired. I would be in the deserts of Egypt right now if the stupid Mauritanians would have settled down in order to keep my sister from being sent home from her Peace Corps service, ultimately canceling my trip to see her. However, I will never, ever, ever again plan to come to Colorado so late in the summer, lest I have to unexpectedly stay once again. June til September, that's all I can do.

I am a mostly a commitment-phobe, but one thing I have no problem commiting to is never being in the cold again. I am currently counting down the days until I go to the fabled "land of no snow" yet again, which happens to be what I call wherever I end up going to avoid this unbelievably annoying and inconvenient weather. I have 24 days, and I leave very early on that 24th day. God help me if I am in a real blizzard before this time.

I quote a client from work when I say, "That Al Gore is full of crap". I called it years ago when I said that Denver is the only place on Earth that global warming is making colder. And I have to say to all the idiots that ask me where I'm from and then wonder why I haven't "gotten used to it"(it being the godforsaken cold), what about cold weather is there to "get used to"? The teary stinging eyes from the cold air? Dressing like a complete fool to stay warm? Being unable to move outdoors in an effort to avoid one's skin from contacting the cold air? Idiots! To the people who ask me if I ski(apparently a reason to like winter), who the hell skis in Denver?! One must go to the mountains for that, so winter in the city is totally useless. Clearly these peoples brains have been frozen from too many cold days.

I do love Colorado, but the cold weather makes me hate Colorado. I don't want to hate Colorado. In order to not hate Colorado, June til September.


Friday, October 16, 2009

A thank you.

As I kill time here tonight entertaining myself with the rants and raves section of craigslist, I have to say thank you to the one who posted that there is a website called www.textsfromlastnight.com.

It will likely offend most of you, but is the funniest thing I have seen the internet do in a while.

Thank you crazy craigslist rant n' raver! I am happy we both have nothing to do tonight!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm getting old.

I just have to have a bit about the horribleness of American hip-hop videos. As I work in the barber shop we sometimes have videos playing on the TVs. We don't listen to the music(thank you baby Jesus), but seeing the videos is bad enough. I really want to ask these guys making these horrific hip-hop videos if they actually think that showing their ugly bling, jumping around, and barely clothed women dancing like whores is original. Have these guys ever watched any other videos?

The exchange goes something like this:

Person 1: "What should we have in the video guys?"

Person 2: "Oh, oh, I know, we can have a really cool car, some babes acting slutty, and maybe those diamonds I bought last week wit my check from the record company. I'll wear my best t-shirt."

Person 1: "You are a genius. Let's not forget the party scene either!"

I swear if I see one more "rapper" covered in like fourteen women, sitting in his way-too-expensive car, moving his hands back and forth on his invisible turn tables, bobbing his head up and down to some over produced track, wearing clothes that don't fit him, I will cry myself to sleep in the fetal position. One is inclined to wonder that if these guys can afford such luxuries as diamonds and fast cars, that they might also afford clothes that fit. I mean if you have millions of dollars why are you still dressing in baggy t-shirts, baseball caps and enormous pants? Hire a personal stylist loser.

This is surely a combination of being out of the country for a while, thus having culture shock, and getting old. I find myself hypnotized by the absolute shitiness of these videos when they are playing. I can't look away but it hurts to keep watching. It's like when these "artists" get money, they get even stupider than they were before.

Then I see men and boys walking through the city every day dressed like these style-less wonders whom happened to make it big. I ask myself every time I see them, "Do they realize those pants are for someone who is like 300lbs.? Did the poor thing used to be all chubby and just lost weight but can't afford new pants?". Somehow I think the answer no. I also wonder if these guys know that the brim of a hat is made to block the sun from one's eyes, not one of their ears.

Don't get me wrong here, I absolutely love hip-hop and rap music. But it makes me mad to see this mainstream crap that gives this genre of music it's bad name and appearance. The hip-hop and rap on TV and is so unbelievably bad. Remember good groups like The Beasite Boys, Run DMC, and Outkast? That is the real deal. And what about Eric B. and Rakim? Hell yeah! Mary J. Blige is a class act as well. These groups and individuals help make hip-hop and rap what is truly is, art. Anyone seen "Sensual Seduction" video that Snoop Dogg came out with a couple years ago? Now that is original!

So I suppose I feel a little bit better and I'm sure I'm not alone in my feelings here. I could care less who agrees or not, this is my blog and I must fill it up with my old lady ranting and raving.

Pull your pants up boys, go to the store and have a tailor measure you. Then buy some clothes for your poor, naked, dancing girlfriend.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Behind the chair.


Being back working in USA, I find myself totally enchanted with being surrounded by hair stylists again. The hair stylist culture is pure fun, if not overly dramatic, properly sassified, laced with a deep obsession for what we do, and ample shit talking. I have no problem jumping back in head first(no pun intended).

Working on people's hair is nothing short of one of the deepest levels of human contact. We are changing a person's appearance and that is not to be taken lightly. Not to mention, we do it with very sharp instruments. The only other professions to level this are doctors and tattoo artists. On this short list, barbers and hair stylists are the most fun.

Our days are filled with, when not cutting, staring out the window and completely judging everyone's appearance walking by, fashion sense, clothes, manner of walking or driving, and the like. This alone can be hours of fun, usually limited to only minutes as we are busy folk whom like to stay busy. We flirt endlessly with each other, no matter the sex of the flirter or flirtee, sexual orientation(of course our industry is famous for it's high percentage of gay men), or marital status. The flirting is harmless, always fun, and if ever acted out would probably be kind of sick. We are always talking about each others hair; what is different, what could be different, and what should be different. This leads us to frequently changing our hair, one of the hair stylists leading personal features.

Then, of course, there is the famous shop gossip. Not only do we talk to each other, we talk about each other. I work for a very large company with many shops around town. There is always something new, somebody new, something old making a return(yours truly), and all the drama we would ever need to fuel the gossip fire every chance we get. The large majority of this is done in a positive light, mostly catching up on our friends and coworkers dramas, but every now and then, there is some ugly slung around. "Did you hear about. . .?!?" I love it!

There is the occasional client lust as well. We have all fallen in love with either one of our own clients or the client of another. This love lasts usually 20 to 30 minutes, the length of a hair cut. As soon as one's hot client leaves, a look is shot across the shop at the stylist whom had the pleasure. The look that screams "I love him!", and we carry about our day. We are however, endlessly professional and likely most hot men that come in the shop have no idea we are looking. We have years of skill at checking out clients whilst remaining completely sly, I mean professional. I will say that I absolutely love being at a job where men endlessly walk through the door, paying us to make them even more handsome. It's great.

Our hair stylist talk, or way of talking is perfected. We are masters at phrases like: "Ewwwwww!" or "Yuuuuuck,", "Oh my God. . .", "Did you see what he/she was wearing?!", "Look at his/her hair!(whilst pointing spasticly and cringing)", "What is that smell?!?". The list is endless, we truly have perfected a dramatic flair to practically every single little thing we talk about.

When it comes to technical work for busy bodies, haircutting, hair styling, and barbering suits us to a "T". For those of us to whom hair is the end all be all of existence, we are insane perfectionists, almost to a fault. There is nothing more satisfying to me professionally than obsessing over a tight fade until it is seamless, checking it in the mirror, and obsessing some more. It is amazing sometimes to watch others at work; watch their techniques, ways of standing, moving their bodies, shears, clippers, combs. This is not to say all hair stylists are as into what they do as I am. We have all had or seen horrible haircuts. To this unfortunate happening, I am privy everyday. But then I get to fix them!

We actually have the best job in the world. We leave every day with cash in hand, we get to make the world a better place to look at, and to smell(for the stinky headed clients). We get to feed the unforgiving human desire to gossip, chat and basically communicate. We get to cure dry scalp. We get to laugh a lot, we get to work with all walks of life, coworkers and clients. We get to help people. It is amazing sometimes to see a person's whole demeanor change after they look in the mirror after being pampered for a while and see something they like, a lot. It is downright inspiring. Sometimes the change in demeanor comes from the simple fact that someone is touching them and listening to them while they blab about whatever. Sometimes the change in demeanor is from the fact that they got to just sit and say nothing for a half hour. This is truly a powerful interaction we are having with people every single day, many times a day. Makes up for all the hair splinters, sore backs, cut fingers, hair filled t-shirts, etc, etc.

I am so lucky to have ended up as a barber, I wouldn't change it for the world. I don't have to either, I have the world from barbering. I was made for this stuff.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

RTD


I am completely convinced that there is a bad body odor requirement in order to ride public transportation here in Denver. I don't know what short circuits in these peoples brains and/or hygiene habits that leads them to share their filth with me on the bus, but yuck. I would think that if one is so inclined to sit on a mobile cubicle of stink, in the close company of others, that one would be so kind as to shower and clean one's clothes at least once a week. Maybe even a haircut too, but that's just the barber in me talking. Then again, I suppose a haircut would require washing one's hair, clearly too much to ask.

However, I wouldn't trade it for the insanity of driving.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Let the madness ensue!

Spent the better part of the last week and a half in the mountains of Colorado, Keystone specifically, with my family, reunionizing. Good times had by all, if not the greatest reminder of my life to never have children. Don't get me wrong here, I love the nieces and nephews(seven in total), I'm just ever so glad to leave them and have my days free of children throwing fits over not having chocolate cake, and the like.

If anything was worth it, it was the classic one-liners. Things came out of the mouths of these children like, "I like nightmares"(yeah, right!), "I want the needle!"(spoken upon sliver removing), and "Mom, how do you spell PJ?". And when told that there was no peeing allowed in the hot tub, a response of "Why?!" by my six-year-old niece was truly classic. There were so many others, but most went the way of the dinosaurs as it's hard to remember something when you are laughing so hard you can't see.

Being in the mountains, I thought I'd be on my bike every single day. But then I remembered that the weather in the mountains is "cold", and I only rode once. I, however, had a very important job of staying in my pajamas all day, holding couches down, feeding nieces and nephews candy and cookies all hours of the day, and making sure the hot tub didn't feel left out of the family fun. Plus my family has a knack for putting off haircuts until they can see me. Honestly, it's something I enjoy. I got to give my 3-year-old niece her very first haircut of her little life. Yay!

Another hilarious, unexpected happening, was the regression back to one's childhood years whilst amongst all brothers, sisters, and parents. I found it to be so funny that myself and my siblings acted as if we were all kids again. The ever present sibling rivalry included, but was not limited to, name calling, shit-talking, hair pulling, teasing someone while they were sleeping or napping, fighting over what to watch on TV, and the best part, poking someone if they bent over in front of you. All of the previously listed events were followed by running to the parents and telling on the offending brother or sister. Sounds normal amongst actual children, but we are all older than 25. Good times.

We ate like kings, if kings eat like they haven't eaten in a year. Everyone had a day or a meal or whatever that they had to cover, giving a surprisingly good variety. And naturally, the last day, we ate as many leftovers as we could shove our already over-full bellies.

No major fights, no major injuries, no pooping or peeing in the hot tub(at least that we were aware of). Family reunion 2009: Deemed a success.

I can wait until next time.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Pedal power.

As I ride myself to death every single day here in Denver, I notice something. Surely some of the drivers in the passing cars are a bit envious and would love to be on their bicycles as well. I mean the weather has been amazing. I can tell by the way they look at me(maybe they are just staring at the spandex). However, whilst riding, I never find myself wishing I was in a car. Ha, ha, suckers! Hope you enjoy getting fat and mad in your car as much as I enjoy laughing at you.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How a day can change a lifetime.

It is so very good to be home. The weather is about perfect, in fact, it is perfect. I forget how amazing Colorado is! I have been riding my bike every single day, which is to make it sound like I have been here some great amount of time already. I'm working on my fourth day. . .

Really, though, I have been in USA barely more than three days, and it might as well be three since I write this in the morning. Considering all that has happened for me since arriving, I feel like I've been here for two or three weeks.

Upon arrival on Friday night, my bicycle did not arrive with all my other luggage from Miami. I had picked it up in Miami to go through customs, but it did not arrive in Denver. Strike one! No big deal, it was still in Miami and scheduled to arrive the next morning. The best thing about lost or late luggage is that it is delivered directly to your house. Fine by me, they can lug around that 60lb. box, making me feel like I got my $112 worth for the extra luggage fee.

On Saturday, I promptly woke up(whatever that means)and rode to meet my friend to attend our friend's memorial service, the whole reason I arrived early anyway. In a stunning setting in the mountains of Colorado Springs, we all remembered our friend whom died a tragic death on his mission to disappear in the mountains of southern Colorado to starve himself to death. The reception following was equally as beautiful, if not extremely trying as I was one of the few to see the very last video he made of himself before he died. Seeing someone you care about make a final goodbye to all after forty days of not eating is heart wrenching. Needless to say I did not sleep much on Saturday night. I am comforted by the fact that he died in a beautiful setting, on his own terms. He taught many people many things, was brilliant, talented, hilarious, and unfortunately, troubled. You will be missed Branko.

Upon arriving home on Saturday night, I was informed that things with my sister are totally up in the air with her Peace Corps service due to violence in her country. What this means for me is that I am now likely taking another solo trip. This trip I have planned to Africa was to visit and travel with her, but if she is removed from her country due to dangerous situations, I will be traveling alone. Just another major life change all in one day, no big deal(!!!).

Still on Saturday. Barely back 24 hours at this point. Late at night, I met up with somebody whom I was very close with last summer before I left to do this whole Guatemala thing. As I was away the past eight months, I realized how strong my feelings are for this person and we met up to talk it out. I had been holding these things in for a while and was very excited to see him and to get it off my chest, finally! Well, an hour later, I walked away, with tears in my eyes, heart broken. We had been in very close contact while I was away and I was certain he felt the same way. The last month before I came home he suddenly became very distant, and confirmed to me that yes, he had felt the same way, but things for him had changed, and he was moving on. I guess that now I also have no choice but to move on.


Nothing like taking care of business all at once though. All this happening in my first day back is overwhelming, but prevents it from being dragged out. There is something to be said for that.

In light of information about my sister, I'm thinking to b-line it to Spain upon arrival to Morocco. Kinda had my fill of third world countries right now, and hey, I speak the language. Woo hoo for Spanish! Really, though, the last thing I want right now is to wander a Muslim desert country in the middle of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, where everything shuts down. I know more details than I am dishing, out of respect for my sister's request for privacy on this matter.

I have never, ever, ever, had a trip go as planned, and the changes almost always come right before I leave. This is nothing new for me to deal with, and honestly I am excited. I am looking forward to spending time alone, believe it or not. And I am totally stoked to go to Spain. I have always wanted to go, but Europe is so expensive I have avoided it. This is some fateful way of getting me there anyways. Maybe I won't come back ;) Who knows what will happen for me as a result of the life-changing day I went through upon arrival last week . . .

Until then, however, I am enjoying time with my family, friends, and road bike. I have a family reunion coming up in Keystone the last week of August, which I am looking forward to immensely. I will desperately try to maintain a relatively low profile to avoid any more major happenings. I've been here three and a half days, I have three weeks more to go, I already need a break.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Parting words.

Well, another photo-less post. Old school!

I am leaving San Pedro tomorrow, paid way too much for a private shuttle to shuttle me and all my crap(including my bike)to Antigua for the night then on to my flight on Friday morning. I changed my ticket, for a small fortune, to attend a friends memorial service on Saturday.

It has felt totally like a whirlwind the past few days, and especially today as I am packing up my room I have lived in for the past eight months. I am ready to leave, something I did not think I would ever feel about this place. When I arrived I was so desparately in love with the lake and the mountains, I did not know if I could ever leave. I am grateful to be feeling totally at peace with this decision.

I have barely had time to think about all the things I will miss here, certainly there are plenty. But there is also many things I will not miss about this place, including the unsafe feeling I have every single place I go. And I will never, ever miss being ripped off for being a gringa. I cannot wait to shop in places where the prices are marked, and the same for people of all races. Yay! I shopped yesterday with two of my girlfriends that are here visiting, and by the end of the day, I was exhausted from yelling at merchants for quoting the most obscene prices. But we sure got some good stuff.

I packed my bicycle up earlier today, my biggest stress, and am kind of taking a break from finishing off packing the other things. Really it is very strange. I feel like I have been here for one month, not eight. I also know that after some time reflecting, many things will make more sense to me. I know I will learn the most from my time here as I reflect on it, and travel on to other cultures. I have no regrets, I am very grateful for my time here, I have learned so much!!

Traveling with my brother for a few weeks away from San Pedro gave me a more centered perspective than I had shortly after I was robbed and so upset. This place is not completely bad. It is real, like every other place. People arrive here, myself included, and are so charmed, thinking we have found the most tranquilo place on Earth. "How could anything ever be bad here, it is so beautiful!!!" is what I used to think. Then after a while, you just realize it is a normal town, and one with a lot of poverty.

I guess thats what I have to say as I try and focus on something for more than six seconds. There is really too much to try and communicate! This life change is not something I have ever gone through, and as usual, came very unexpectedly. I would have it no other way.

I will be back in United States on Friday, feeling like I went through a time warp. See you then!


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hit me with the drill, doctor!!

Due to the fact that I can no longer post photos as a result of my camera´s robbery, I must now rely on my half-assed "journalism" to keep the mobs entertained. Here it goes. . .

Being that my time is winding down here in Guatemala, I must take advantage of the good things(read: cheap things)that are available here. I am currently in Antigua, which represents all that Guatemala is not; safe including real police, free of street dogs, amazing restaurants, etc. It´s heaven for me since I am really not too keen on the real Guatemala right now.

One of the benefits of being in a third world(read: cheap)country is the availability of medical and dental care that is as good as, if not sometimes better than in my own country. One of the best things too is that it is always possible to get an appointment the same day you call, amazing. God bless the Latinos inability to plan ahead. I love calling to make an appointment, they barely take my name(usually only my first name anyways), let alone any bullcrap insurance information or guarantee of payment. In fact, I have to ask them if they want to take my phone number.

I had visited a dentist in a town on the lake about two months ago and had a cleaning and a couple of fillings. One of the fillings was becoming very sensitive, and I had no intentions of returning to the same dentist since he pissed me off royally one day by yelling at me like a freakin´ 6-year-old child for using the bathroom in his building whilst wandering the town. I knew there would be a plethora of amazing dentists here in Antigua since Antigua has all that is right and good in the world(read: all that is cheap and good in the world). I happened to run into another ex-pat gringa in my same hotel here and asked her for a recommendation for a dentist here in Antigua.

I hunted down the office and made an appointment for, you bet, the same day. I went on Monday afternoon and she examined the tooth, said the filling was too high, meaning it wasn´t properly shaped after being filled, then proceeded to fix me up proper. She also mentioned the other seven(!!!)small cavities I had and made appointments to fill the others. Hey, life as a candy junkie isn´t all good, but it sure is sweet. Ha, ha, I´m seriously funny.

At this point I was willing to do whatever she said, her damn beautiful brown eyes and her smarts, speaking to me in her dental spanish. I have had only a few harmless, fleeting crushes on women in my life, and well, the hot Guatemalan dentista is now one of them. Oh, Doctora Muñoz. . . how I want you to fix all my teeth.

Back on track. I went yesterday to do one side of my mouth, as numbing the whole mouth can cause tounge choking death. First, however, I must mention that it was just me and two Catholic nuns in the waiting room, one really old and one really young. Imagine this, we are in the waiting room of the dentist office sitting across from each other. I´m in a spaghetti strap tanktop and shorts and these two are looking at me and my giant skull tattoos as though they are witnessing the devil herself. After a moment and a friendly "Buenas tardes" from me, I noticed the young one reading her mini travel bible as though to keep the demons tattooed on my leg from coming alive and kissing their virgin lips. Classic!!

Hot doctora examined me and said we could do this without anesthesia since the cavities were all very shallow. Sounds horrendous, but for me, I hate the mouth numbing, the giant needle in my throat, and the taste of blood after chewing up of the inside of my cheeks afterwards since I cannot feel anything. Plus I had popped a preemptive Guatemalan vicodin since drilling at the dentist always sucks. I was game.

Hour and a half later, she had fixed the five small ones on the left side, taking meticulous detail to file and shape them properly. This was love. She had another patient after me, a screaming niño, whom only was there for x-rays. After that she said she had time and could fix the other side, being that no drugs were being used. Again, fine by me, getting it over with in one shot is better. So she did the other two and I´m feeling all dapper, ready to break in my my new teeth parts by celebrating with a dinner of pure candy. Yay!

God bless her, not only for being hot, but I mean, what dentist is like "No necesitamos usar anestesia, porque son pequeñas(we don´t need to use anesthesia since your cavities are small)."? Really, it was so much better this way. Saving me money and chewed up cheeks all at the same time.

Well, seven fillings and an x-ray later, I walked out paying just shy of $200 for everything. I know you must all think I´m a fool for leaving this place. But the cheap dental care just makes up for the price of all the stolen things that are no longer mine and must be bought again.

Thus, my dental experience comes to a close in Guatemala. I have one more appointment on Saturday, which was originally set to do the other cavities, but I will go just to make sure there is no adjusting of the fillings to do after a few days of settling in. That being said, sadly, mine and Doctora Muñoz´s relationship is over, I am scheduled with another dentista. It´s okay though, some things aren´t meant to last. Plus if I keep up my candy and brownie habit, I´ll be back to the dentista in no time!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

venting!!!!! (sad but true)

I find it fascinating that a place so beautiful can be filled with so much ugliness.

Upon first glance, these Mayan people are charming as hell. "Oh, the Mayans, and their ancient culture. Their typical clothing, and their native languages, their cute brown babies running the streets" are among some of the things I have said and thought. However after months of living here, I have seen all sides, and now I only look at these people in disgust.

My ability to post photos was stolen the other day, from my house, in broad daylight as my brother and I ate dinner in a nearby restaurant. A group of little shits climbed over my front door/gate and stole my backpack sitting on a bench, inside the bag was my camera. My camera had every single photo I have taken since living here. Gone.

This robbery comes only two short weeks after our house was broken into as we slept one night and my former roommates $7000 computer was stolen(she is a videojournalist, her only reason for traveling with something so expensive). That was her second computer stolen in her time in Guatemala. She will likely not return to finish the documentary. "Why am I here helping these people when this is what they do to me?" she said the morning after discovering her second computer was gone. I could not agree more amiga.

These people steal every chance they get. Charging us more for the same bus ride as the locals/other natives, charging us more for the same damn food in the market. Looking us up and down before quoting a price for anything, just to make sure they can milk us for every single Quetzal(Guatemalan currency)they can squeeze out of us. My same friend whom had her computer stolen, had her clothes and shoes stolen as her and her brother swam in some natural limestone pools in the jungles here. Gone for ten minutes and when they returned, no clothes and shoes. Clothes and shoes! They stop at nothing.

If you can even believe this madness, you are probably asking yourselves why I am choosing to live like this. I am not going to as of August 17. I have had a trip to North Africa planned, with my departure from Guatemala being August 17. The plan was to return to Guatemala after my two months in Africa, but I won´t. I cannot and will not live like this.

I cannot pass any natives in the streets with any inkling of a positive thought. I´m looking at every 14-year-old boy, looking for my backpack on his back. Saying Hola to these people is not something I really do anymore. I do not want to live with this resentment and bitterness, thus, it´s time to move on. Barbers without borders will be crossing this border to likely never return.

I know as well as anyone, that robberies happen everywhere. But it´s the particular way of thievery here that I will not tolerate. They think we are all rich beyond our wildest dreams and they can steal all they want, because we have endless riches to buy to more. Unfortunately, money cannot buy back my 8 months of photos.

It is racist, plain and simple. As victims of racism, I would think the Mayans wouldn´t perpetuate more, but it seems to be all they know. This place will not develop, ever, if these people keep up with their own cycle of repression. Ripping off the very people that are trying to help them break free of their dysfunctional lifestyle.

Maybe you are also asking yourselves, why not stay and help? Once you give here, they just take more, something I have learned the hard way. People like me come here, our heads swimming with ideas and intentions to help. After time, and disappointment after disappointment, 95% of us gain my current attitude. We can´t even help these people, they do not include us, they do not respect us. They use us and spit us out, with their hands in our pockets the entire time. I´m sure there are success stories with helping native Mayans, but I have not heard any except in story books. Every single expatriate that I know with real time spent here in San Pedro, has little if nothing to do with the natives due to endless negative experiences. Not to mention a deep bitterness attached to it.

This place has broken my heart. Nothing looks the same here, nothing feels the same. And to be very honest, this place doesn´t deserve me.



Monday, July 6, 2009

Halftime.

I know that I am the world´s greatest blogger. But sometimes even the world´s greatest blogger needs a break. My brother is here in Guatemala visiting me until the end of July and thus I must forwarn my fans that my posting may not be as regular as is has been since hanging out with him is infinately more fun than sitting in the internet café.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Old school.





Scenes like this are disappearing from Guatemala, and I took full advantage of it. Walking the streets of San Pedro the other day, I came across these two old Mayan men in their typical dress, chatting away, obvlious of me taking their photo. The ones with the old lady are too much. Classic moments!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The night the Zoola burned.

There is a rather well known place here in San Pedro called Zoola. I call it the Zoola as that is what I hear all the Israelis say, the Zoola. The Zoola is a hotel and restaurant, very, very laid back style. The Zoola has a reputation as a great place to hang out, eat, smoke, and chill, sometimes for hours on end. The Zoola was built about six years ago, and is owned and run by Israelis(which there is no shortage of here). Though the Zoola is not visible from any road or pathway, it has an impecable reputation and is always very busy. The Mayan ladies whom work in the kitchen don´t mess around and can make any Israeli dish that they are challeged with, among other things.

I live very near the Zoola. The other night, about 9pm, I saw a huge plume of smoke coming from directly where the Zoola is located, smoke that signaled it was not just a trash fire. I could also see flames, very big flames coming from the Zoola. I thought I was dreaming. And knowing that the Zoola is usually very busy, I kind of panicked hoping everything was alright, you know, minus the huge fire. I immediately assumed it was a fire from the kitchen, but being Monday, the Zoola was closed(its normal day to be closed).

I knew I had to go see what was happening, and to see if I could do anything to help. I walked on the dirt pathway to the Zoola, my heart racing. When I arrived I saw what I already knew, the Zoola was burning. As can be seen in the photos, the Zoola has a thatch roof, and that thatch roof was flaming, huge. By the time I arrived, there was plenty of people inside doing their best to put the flames out. San Pedro does not have a fire department, there might be some Bomberos(firefighters)in a neighboring town, but there is not time to wait for these things here. We also do not have regular running water here, so hoses were pretty much out of the question as well.

The fire was being fought with buckets of water being thrown up to the flames by Mayan and foreign men alike. This was a serious team effort. I stood outside on the grass pictured to the left, slack-jawed gaping at what was taking place before me. Every time a bucket of water was thrown up, flaming hot coals rained down. Perhaps you are wondering why I didn´t do anything to help, well, sometimes the best thing one can do is stay the hell out of the way. These men had this handled as best it could be handled, and I would have been in the way.

I was truly in shock, and as I stood there chatting in disbelief with my Mayan girlfriends, I was hoping and praying so hard in my heart that this place would not burn to the ground, and that all would walk away unharmed. The community of expatirates that live here is pretty tightknit, and all I could think of was the owners and managers of the Zoola and how devastating this all is for them and all of us that live here. The Mayan ladies in the kitchen were also weighing heavily on my heart as I am close friends with one of them and for these people to be out of work is crippling to an already miniscule family income.

After about an hour of fierce fighting, the flames were gone and the last bits of smoke were being tortured with bucket after bucket of water. The mood had lightened significantly, as the men knew they had won the battle, and laughing was heard as the soaking, dirty men continued to do what they could to kill the smoking coals. It was over, the fire at the Zoola had been put out by the persistence of normal people, all with something at stake.

How did this fire start? This was not a kitchen fire, being that the kitchen was not functioning at the time. The fire did not come from anyone chilling in the restaurant, the restaurant was closed. Want my opinion? This is obvious arson. The fire started on the roof of the Zoola, probably gasoline thrown, then ignighted. The fire started in the first break of rain we had had for days as tropical storm Andrés poured on us for nearly a week. The Zoola is a very sucessful restaurant owned by foreigners. This is likely arson perpetrated by someone whom has beef with either the owners, or the simple success of the place. Was it Guatemalans, was it someone who hates Israelis specifically? Seems an obvious act of racism, something we expats deal with on a daily basis here. Either way, this is a bit scary for all of us expatirates here, puts us all on our toes.

I went back on Tuesday afternoon to check out the clean up effort. Everyone seemed in pretty good spirits, and the remnants of the fire had been cleaned up very well. "We are reopening at 3pm". Take that arsonists!

In the meantime, the kitchen and another area of the Zoola are fully functioning, undamaged. Thankfully, only a small area burned, and is easily rebuildable. The folks of San Pedro, tourists and locals, will soon be able to chill in leisure at the Zoola once again. The Mayan ladies will continue to have work, and trust me when I say this, the Zoola will be as busy as ever.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Finding my way.


Though it may be common assumption that life in another country is all fun and games, quite the opposite is true. Yes, this place is very, very charming, but there are plenty of aspects that are far from beautiful.

I came to Guatemala following a feeling that this is the most perfect place on Earth for me in my life right now. Do I still believe that? I can honestly say that I don´t know. And now that you are all asking yourselves, "What the hell happened?", I´m actually not going to indulge.

In order to make myself feel better about the struggle I am currently going through to find my place here, I will post some photos, yet again, probably to remind myself more than others, exactly why I am here.


Above, Juanita La Bonita, working in the field by my house.

Kristel! My oh my, Kristel. She kills me with those brown eyes. And no one on Earth has ever met a three-year-old with such amazing powers of convincing.
Kristel, Mingo and me.
Lake Atitlán, sunrise from the Indian Nose Mt.
The volcanos and me, from the Indian Nose Mountian. Hiking in the dark sucks, but so worth it when the sun comes up.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Spiders.

Living in Central America, things about myself that I thought would never change, are changing.

I have never really minded spiders, they don´t send me into a panic, or send me running. Perhaps I can "blame" my mother for my lax attitude towards spiders, being that she makes sure to have a pet black widow in a jar in the house at all times. Totally worth it, throwing other spiders in the jar and watching the death match is awesome, to say the least.

However, living and traveling in Guatemala and the surrounding countries, where insect life is abundant, has changed my attitude towards these creatures. Upon sighting a spider in my room or wherever, I used to be a "catch and release" type, believing that spiders are good because they kill far more annoying bugs. Then, one day as I commented that "Spiders eat other bugs", the person I was conversing with made the comment, "Yeah, and they get eaten too". Touché.

I live in a three story, virtually open air house, in the highland jungles of Guatemala. Spiders are everywhere in my house, literally. There are thousands of them, no exaggeration, sometimes I wonder if it´s millions. For the most part they mind their own business and stay out of my way, in the corners of the rooms or wrapping their webs in areas of the house where they are not bothersome. I even get a bit giddy when I see a fly or mosquito struggling to escape from a web as the spider approaches to kill it dead. Damn the flys!!!

But all this being said, if a spider is in my space, I no longer have the "catch and release" attitude. I now have the "smoosh upon first sight" attitude, even the tiny baby spiders. What am I supposed to do here? I swear, if I catch and release, it will come right back in, plus they are just too numerous to catch and release all damn day long. I have better things to do than chase spiders around my room. They will learn to stay out of my space, or they will be a gross looking wall decoration, right next to the smooshed flys.

The hugest spider I ever had to smoosh was when I was in Guatemala the first time, last year. This thing was the size of a small baby and was on the wall of my hotel room. I could not do anything until that thing was dead. As my flip-flop flew through the air towards the thing, I screamed like a little girl, then did the dance of grossness immediately afterwards for at least two minutes. The giant was mangled and dead on the floor, but I was able to change my clothes without being watched and I was able to sleep.

The above pictured spider, inside the toilet tank of the hotel I stayed in during my recent trip to Mexico is the inspiration for this blog post. That spider is also the size of a baby and being in a very precarious position, I had to be creative with how to smoosh it. A long stick came in handy. Then it floated in the toilet water as the flushes drained and refilled the tank. I´m sure someday it´s body will rot in the toilet tank water and the circle of life will be complete.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pool party!!!

In proper tradition, I had a birthday party yesterday to celebrate my thirty beautiful years on this here Mother Earth. Mostly, I have posted pictures with hilarious captions to suffice as describing a party is very boring to read.

Chema!! My little love, enjoying cobbler and ice cream, pantless.

What party is complete with out a sleeping baby? You go, Amelia!
In this photo we can see that I am holding it down as the hugest woman here. Me and my thirty years with our Mayan friend Chino.
I know it appears as though the plate is on fire, but trust me, there is cobbler and ice cream under there somewhere. We had to shove thirty candles in a very small space here people. No, the beer and cigarettes are not mine. How can I possibly keep my bikini body at thirty years old with that kind of behavior? Birthday cobbler made by the redneck in the hat to the right of the photo. Thanks Nestor for the awesomest pineapple cobbler ever!
¡Amigas bonitas! Mayan girlfriends trying their hardest to know how the heck to smile in a photo.

Top left, the folks enjoying tasty beverages at the bar at the pool. Top right, Ben(left)trying desperately to give me my birthday present by beating Nestor(right)at Boccie Ball. I didn´t get my present, that redneck can´t be beat! There´s always next year Ben. And above, Daniel, my very good friend, owner of the pool and my sometimes boss when I work at the pool. Huge thanks to Daniel for offering his facilities and his day off to have a party for me!Chema and his sister Eileen, enjoying the pool and making funny faces for all. Below, to finish the night, Daniel had no problems spanking me thirty times or so with one of the gifts I received, a fly swatter. God bless you Caroline, it is one of the best birthday presents ever as my birthday falls exactly in the middle of fly season here at the lake.

I hope you all had as much fun as I did! Happy birthday to me.

Monday, May 25, 2009

AHHHHHHHHHHH!

I think the latinos and latinas can tell that I´m about to turn thirty years old. They have gone from calling me Señorita to Señora. Maybe the eighteen-year-olds will finally leave me alone.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Run for the border.

Life as en expatriate in Guatemala requires little to no maintainence. However, since the government here is poor, they like to make us do things to get more of our money and to keep tabs on us "rich" foreigners.

As I write this, I am currently sitting in a city in Guatemala called Quetzaltenango, Xela for short. This city is amazingly beautiful, small, and far less dangerous than the captial. Plus there is a lady here who does waxing, god bless her. Xela is also on the way to the border of Mexico, where I am headed tomorrow.

You see, though it seems as though the Guatemalan government can´t get anything right, they make us foreigners leave the country every six months to renew the stamps on our passports. Actually after three months the stamps expire, but we are allowed one renewal stamp in the immigration office in the capital. But after three more months, they want us out before we come back in.

Fine by me, I kind of need a break from the small town life. Xela has it all except the overwhelming pollution. They even have Hiper-Paiz, the Guatemalan version of Wal-Mart. The longer I am in Guatemala, the more reasons I have to never live anywhere else.

And though I like to think that this barber has no borders, the Mexican one is looming, calling me, "Sarah, come to me and renew your stamp so you can stay in Guatemala". So I will head to Tapachula tomorrow, a low elevation city just across the border of Mexico and Guatemala. I will sit there for three days with my pig flu and my pesos, and sweat in the summer heat.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

First taste.

Latin American countries are somewhat infamous for having corrupt governments, police, and just about everything else, right down to convienence store owners. Living in Guatemala, I have seen and heard a bit of this and a bit of that involving corruption on small levels. For example, paying off the cops for false or legitimate arrests, people paying for lawyers and the lawyers skipping town, etc, etc. However, I am experiencing my first taste of federal government level corruption as we speak.

If any of you read or watch the news, maybe you have heard. Two days ago a video was released to the media of a lawyer named Rodrigo Rosenberg(pictured above). In this video, Rosenberg said something along the lines of, "If you are seeing this video, it is because I
have been murdered by order of the president(of Guatemala)". In the video he said much more, including other accusations and giving support to the Vice President of Guatemala to heal and take back the country.

True, this man is dead, and in proper Guatemalan fashion, they printed pictures of his dead body in the newspaper, laying right beside his bicycle where he was murdered in broad daylight.

¿¿¿WTF???

A day after the release of the video, the President of Guatemala(Alvaro Colom, pictured below)denied having anything to do with this mans death. Also, a day after this story broke to the media, there were massive protests in front of the presidents house calling for his resignation. The Guatemalan government also promtply
flew mayors in from towns and cities all over Guatemala, to the capital to support the president. All this done on the tab of the Guatemalan tax payers, and at no small price.

Forgive me, but this is so fucked. Basically, there is hard core, prerecorded proof that this mans assination is directly related to the President, and done by his order. Now, we must consider that it is potentially a conspiracy created by this Robert Rosenberg himself, in order to stir up the government. However, the history of Latin American governments points to this story and his accusations being true.

There have been promised "unadulterated and unbiased" investigations into these recent happenings. And my response to that is: how can anyone possibly believe that these investigations will not be corrupt? This country was born from corruption and unfortunately it may fall from the same corrupt practices. What could happen? It will be so interesting to find out.

Get on Google and read something. This is too crazy to be true, and it has every single person in Guatemala talking. Imagine a video of a very notable and famous lawyer coming out saying that if we are seeing this it means he is dead and that our president is responsible. Seems it could never happen. Nuts.

In turn, nobody knows what will happen. Will the president step down? Will more people turn up dead? Will the investigations acutally be legitimately un corrupt, unbiased and clear? How can we feel safe in this kind of political environment? The questions in the minds and heard from the voices of people here, myself included, are unending.

The Prensa Libre(the main Guatemalan newspaper)printed today that the FBI is getting involved in the investigations. However, that does not really mean anything. I am sure the Guatemalan government has worked with the FBI before to the disadvantage of the people. Hmm, let me think, oh yeah, the nearly 40 year civil war this country went through.

I cannot deny that part of me is furious at all of this. And most of my anger comes from the fact that whoever killed this man will likely walk free the rest of his life as many murderers do in this place, whilst this corrupt president continues to rule this oh so fragile country. . .

May Rodrigo Rosenburg rest in peace.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Trash.

Anyone that has ever traveled to a third world country, I´m sure is shocked at the amount of trash everywhere. Even in such a pristine place as this lake and these mountains, there is plenty of trash, in the lake and on the mountains.

It seems as though nobody cares. But that is not the case. The case is this, there are not very many ways to actually properly dispose of one´s trash here. Walking down the pathways and the streets, I think I have seen two public trash cans. In a town of about 13,000 that number is very low. Leading to people throwing their trash anywhere. Another factor in this lack of care for the environment stems from the economic situation here. Why should we worry about trash in the lake and streets when many people here worry about what they will eat that day?

Many people here burn their trash. Sounds horrendous, but it´s going to pollute the earth in one manner or another, so the difference between burning and throwing is cancelled out. Plus this place creates such a small amount of trash, relatively speaking, that the piles being burned are often very small and only burn for a few minutes before tapping out.

In my house, with two other people and me, we create about one or two bags of trash per month. Not many, but still difficult to get rid of. This is how it works. There are no trash companies that come by every week, twice a week to collect our waste. Plus we live on a dirt pathway, not a street. The collection of trash is managed by the town municipality and consists of a huge dump truck and a small pick-up truck that drive around town honking a special, distinguishable horn to signal that it is near and that all should come running with their bags of trash. When we hear the horn, Gary(my roommate)and I look at each other with that look. The look that says, "We need to get our asses to the street! Like now!". The anxiety of missing the trash truck is too much.

We then promptly grab the bag or bags or whatever else we are trying to get rid of and run down the pathway to hopefully not miss the truck. There is no regular schedule for the trucks passing so if we miss it, we must just wait until next time. I hate having to carry trash back to the house.

If we are lucky enough to not miss it, we happily give our trash to the men and pay 1 quetzal(Guatemalan currency)per bag. Likely this payment of roughly 12 cents per bag is a tip for the collectors of trash, fine by me, they deserve it. After the trucks are full, they drive up the road on the volcano, pull over, and dump the trash in a sort of designated area, right off the side of the road. Upon seeing this heap of filth the first time, covered with street dogs and vultures, I came to realize why people throw their trash just anywhere. It seems as though people would rather spread it out as opposed to concentrating it in one area. Plus, I know there are families here who chose to not pay to throw their trash.

Sounds crazy, coming from such a well managed country, in terms of waste disposal. Then this thought crosses my mind; trash in our country is so well managed because if it wasn´t, considering the sheer amount of waste the United States creates, the country would be have been buried beneath its own filth long ago.

And ultimately, I draw this conclusion: though some of the things I have just written about how trash is delt with may seem horrifying, the people here in San Pedro and in Guatemala in general produce a signficantly less amount of trash than most Americans could ever dream. So, though it may dishearten me to see kids and adults alike throwing their chip bags and water bottles anywhere, it may be the only trash they throw all week.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The story of coffee

Just how does that wonderful burnt, brown liquid make it to my addiction?

I know that most people in the States think that coffee comes from coffee shops and tightly sealed foil baggies, pre-ground on flourescent-light lit grocery store shelves. Surprise, coffee actually grows on trees. Wouldn´t it be nice if all things we love grew on trees?

Guatemala is coffee country. Some of the finest coffees in the world are grown here, and literally right here on the volcano on which I live. There´s coffee fields everywhere and coffee trees grow between houses, along pathways, etc. Basically coffee trees are more plentiful than Mayan children, and that´s saying something.
I find it futile to post a photo of an actual coffee tree as I waited until just after the coffee harvest ended here to make this post(my deepest apologies). There is barely any cherries left on the trees so it would just look like a picture of green. But besides that, here´s how it goes.

Coffee is a huge income generator here in a very poor place. Men will spend weeks and months on end in the fields, during the harvest, gently pulling coffee cherries from trees and filling huge bags with them. That´s right, coffee begins as a cherry, literally looks like a cherry. When the cherries are ripe, they are harvested. But what then?

After the cherries are harvested, the men come down from the fields on the volcano at the end of each day to have their harvest weighed and then further processed. It takes about two full days of harvesting in order to fill a 50lb. bag. The harvesters make about the equivelant of about $25 to $30 per bag of raw cherries. That´s two days of extremly hard, hand shredding work, whilst carrying a heavy sack of cherries, for $30.

After the collection of raw cherries at the processing "plants" scattered throughout our tiny town, the cherries are then spread out in a thin layer on the ground in order to dry. Pictured above is a close up of coffee cherries drying, the light colored beans are the raw(pre-roasted)coffee beans and the darker colored beans are still wrapped in a dried cherry husk. And below is a larger view of the cherries drying at various stages, which I will explain.




The cherries dry for a certain number of days and when they are ready, they are processed in the first round of washings which the cherries/beans will recieve. The processing plants are basically a small, open-air building with a series of automated machines which the cherries pass through in order to wash the husk off the bean inside. It is a sight to see the men working through the night, washing, lifting baskets of cherries, raking through piles of cherries, and on and on and on.

Well, once is not enough to get the fruit off of the bean, thus the process of spreading, drying, and washing is repeated a number of times in order for the beans to be ready to roast. Wash, rinse, repeat comes to mind. In the middle picture, the darkest pile is the newest pile to be drying, whilst the pile on the right of the photo is mid-process(similar to the first photo/close up)and the very light colored pile is nearing its final stages just before roasting here in San Pedro, or shipping to a first world, coffee fueled country for roasting.

But that´s not the best part. The best part(heavy sarcasm), is what happens to the coffee cherries that come off of the beans. The picture below is of an enormous pile of fermenting cherries that have been washed off of the beans as they are processed. Oh, the smell, wow, the smell. . . We are talking tons of fermenting fruit here people. It´s a bit overwhelming upon first whiff, but I have come to appreciate it as a part of my life here, knowing full well
that I have to accept all aspects of my addiction to this wonderful product of the Earth.

The fruit is later collected and redistributed on the coffee fields as a fertilizer, hence the sign advertising a gift of coffee fruit/pulp. It´s like saying "Look what we have for free, rotten fruit!". And the Guatemalans snap it up.

All in all, the process of harvesting, drying, washing, drying, washing again takes about a month before the beans are ready for roasting. Personally, the most romantic part of this process for me is when the beans are almost ready for roasting and I see a Mayan woman on a roof top picking up baskets of raw, dried beans and slowly pouring them through the air so the breeze can carry away all the dust and leftover bits. Some things cannot ever be automated.

A pound of local coffee sells here for about $3.50, sometimes less, sometimes more, grown right on the volcano, roasted by an old man in the back of his house, now that´s fresh coffee.
And, I will say this, the smell of roasting coffee coming out of houses and coffee shops here is plenty to make up for the stench of the rotting fruit. You suckers worshiping Starbucks think that stuff is fresh, ha, ha, losers! We´ve already pissed out our coffee here by the time that stuff even makes it on a boat.

I find all this very fascinating and as I learned more and more about what was acutally happening all around me, every day, I definately appreciate more and more each cup of coffee or latté that I enjoy. The amount of extremly hard labor and the amount of love put into coffee growing, harvesting and processing here is impressive, to say the least.

As previously mentioned, the coffee harvest has ended. Which for me, means that no more HUGE trucks loaded with bags of cherries arriving from the volcano each afternoon, no more endless nights of watching the processing plants run, no more drying coffee. What it also means is that now the rain has started, the piles of fruit are fermenting at an even higher lever of stinkiness. However, the piles are also shrinking as farmers and the like are taking away the tons of fruit to fertilize their fields in order to begin again after a few months of blessed rain.

So now that I have made your cups of coffee much more than just cups of coffee, you can all look longingly into your burnt, brown goodness and imagine what it took to get it from these fields, through the hands of hard working Mayans and into your office, thus fueling your comments on my blog and your emails expressing your greatest thanks for your new coffee knowledge.