Lately when I am asked how I like living in Barranquilla (Colombia), my response varies. Some days…”It’s hard. The city is hot and the culture is frustrating. I don’t like most of the food, the buses are disorganized, Costeño is like hillbilly Spanish, and most people just stare at my blue eyes and blonde hair.”
Then there are days I respond with, “I love the music, especially Champeta and Vallenato. Colombia has delicious coconut street treats and fresh juices. The people are unique-looking and beautiful.” Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between.
Although I left the US with few expectations, Colombia, teaching and WorldTeach have not exactly been what I hoped for prior to leaving. Instructing English to approximately 600 3rd, 4th and 5th grade girls is not how I anticipated 2014, and I’ll admit I’ve had several days that my purpose feels futile. I find myself wondering what I am doing here, verdad. However, in all this frustration, intrigue and wonder, there is the option to do one of my favorite things: travel.
Semana Santa or Holy Week in Christianity, is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter, and bears Friday of Sorrows as well as Good Friday (ironically, happy-sad, like my life lately). I elected to spend the week in Santa Marta, a beautiful historic town on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Founded in 1525 by the Spanish conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas, Santa Marta is the first Spanish settlement and the oldest surviving city in Colombia, as well as the second oldest city in South America.
Literary buffs may know Santa Marta from the Banana massacre (Masacre de las banners), a mass-killing of workers for the United Fruit Company that occurred in nearby Ciénaga on December 6, 1928. The treatment of workers was so bad that the US government threatened to invade with the Marine Corps if the Colombian government did not act to protect United Fruit’s interests.
Determined to have a decent Spring Break, I ventured to Masaya in El Centro Historico and enjoyed 5 wonderful days in a beautiful, multi-level hostel with colorful tile, original architecture and modern furniture. Here I met some incredible people, including Irene from Miami, Santa Marta arquitecto-musician Rolando Enrique Sanchez, and David at reception whose character and charm obviously keeps visitors feeling welcome during their stay at Masaya.
My second day in Santa Marta, I joined two French travelers, Nicolas and Julian, at Playa el Rodadero, a short bus ride from downtown, where we enjoyed a hot-sand beach with gentle waves, a moderate crowd and interesting vendors.
Intrigued by the mini-boat bar steered across the sand by Frankie and his first mate, Willington, I couldn’t resist a cuba libre served in a coconut, and remembered fondly living in the Caribbean with my dad, who loved this refreshing rum-cola-lime cocktail.
Another day I ventured out to Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, a hacienda built in the 17th century that once produced rum, honey and panela, and is now a museum and historical landmark, best known as the death place of Simón Bolívar (December 17, 1830).
This sprawling tourist site is loaded with giant roaming iguanas, plants indigenous to the region, gigantic old trees, as well as a beautiful main house, mill, bakery, distillery, and a spooky marble crypt for Bolívar (who now rests in Venezuela).
Although it seems odd to be placed outside of the city, the impressive but small Museum of Contemporary Art is also housed at Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino.
It was intriguing to view not only the amazing Warhol-inspired work but the motivation to bring attention to the prolific tragedy of this date by a Santa Marta native living in California. For a few minutes, I felt the elements of my life and Colombia running together like the ice and cream of a cholado on a typical steamy Barranquilla day.
Santa Marta is a fun town to explore and shop in, but the best treats are a short bus (or taxi) ride away. On day three, I joined a buena pareja, Kameron and Marialejandra, on a journey to Minca, a small jungle town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
We hiked high up dirt roads, crossed skinny bamboo bridges, tripped over giant root trees and enjoyed several waterfalls in Minca, before returning to Santa Marta, dusty, watery and done with the day.
A few days, I just relaxed in the town of Santa Marta, walking its skinny streets and exploring the ancient buildings open to the public. There are street vendors selling everything from clothing and electronics to birds and dogs, and of course delicious coconut treats. The catédral is small but beautiful inside, featuring statues of saints and large sculptures depicting suffrage and dedication.
If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine — it’s lethal.
- Paulo Coelho (Brazilian lyricist and novelist, born 1947)
In an attempt to wrap up my break bohemian-style, I crossed a small mountain by bus and landed in the sleepy fishing village of Taganga, population 3000. I found a fantastic coffee place, Cafe Bonzai, where a large rooster flirted shamelessly with women on the street.
Spying me through the glass door, he would crow loudly, then turn to make sure I was watching as I worked in my collage sketchbook. That’s right, a rooster flirting with women in Colombia. I swear, I can’t make this stuff up.
After dinner of ceviche, patacones and rice I hitched a ride on a mototaxi to a low-grade hostel where I slept very little, listening to street dogs argue over the neighbor’s amplified Reggaeton. I worried about the front gate which was unlocked most of the night.
Early in the morning, I packed and left for the bus terminal in Santa Marta, stopping briefly to watch the Taganga fishing boats heading out in the morning light. As I stood on the beach, I thought about a quote I’d read and its sheer relevancy to life right now:
Adventure is just bad planning.
- Roald Amundsen (Norwegian Arctic & Antarctic explorer, 1872 – 1928)
It’s definitely time to start planning.
And when all’s been said and done
It’s the things that are given not won
Are the things that you earned
Cartagena Dia 1
It’s no coincidence, accident or stroke of luck that I am living in Barranquilla, Atlántico, with many beaches, cities and historical places to discover nearby. Barranquilla is a short 2-hour bus ride to Cartagena de Indias, Bolivar, a place I have wanted to visit for many years. I had Plaza San Teresa on the computer at my IT job: the vibrant gold and white colonial colors of Colombian edificios luring me each day to change my life. And two years later, here I am.
I left my house in Barranquilla to catch La Carolina, my favorite bus line, traveling through La Ocho and arriving at the terminal in about 45 minutes. The Expreso Brasilia to Cartagena was a comfortable and uneventful 2 hours. I arrived at the Terminal de Autobúses about 5:00 pm, and took a taxi to El Viajero Hostel, where Miriam at reception gave me a set of sheets and assigned me to my dorm. Outside I met Stephano from Switzerland and Deborah from Milwaukee, and later joined Soledad from Ecuador whose constant reminder “¡por favor, en español!” made me laugh when our conversation slipped to English.
The first morning of Cartagena, I joined Stephano and Soledad at Playa Boca Grande. Soledad scolded me for making them 30 minutes behind schedule and told me “7:30, Switzerland! That is the perfect time, 7:30″ I asked for what, and she replied, “Everything! 7:30!” I Googled this later, but only came up with one universal theory.
Playa Boca Grande is large, sparse and not very pretty, but the view to the city is charming, the water is warm and calm, and the people we met out for an early swim were friendly. After Soledad enjoyed a quick shoulder massage on the beach, we headed back by bus only to get lost and have to walk back to the Centro Historical. We made the best of it, stopping for coffee, and taking a few photos along the way.
After a quick shower and change of clothes, Soledad, Stephano and I met with Deborah and Jim for lunch, criss-crossing Calle Siete Enfantes for an affordable but appetizing meal. I found Restaurante Vegetarian Girasoles and almost cried tears of joy; my first vegetarian restaurant discovery since arriving in Colombia in January. I quickly ordered the bolas de garbanzo menu del dia, which was served with frijoles, arroz con coco and ensalada.
Clutching my comida rapida vegetariana, I laughed out loud when Deborah cynically noted, “they probably cooked it in lard.” Having only met Deborah the night before, I loved her comment for it’s striking honesty. Travel has taught me that everyone we meet along the journey is different, including ourselves. If more people stepped outside their inner self when visiting some place new, they might be surprised at the things they discover about who they are.
After eating nearly every bite of my Girasoles lunch, I spent the rest of the afternoon discovering (and falling in love with) Cartagena. I wrote and mailed 3 postcards – my only ones so far in Colombia – and paid three times the amount for the stamps as I did the cards. Dropping my handwritten hopefuls in a small blue box marked “Buzons,” I wondered if they will one day reach their intended recipients…
Walking through Plaza Anadula to Plaza de los Coches, I felt my heart beginning to race. Not only have I wanted to visit Cartagena for years, but I have often dreamed about seeing the place where one of my favorite artists, Tito el Bambino, filmed his video for Llueve El Amor.
As I turned the corner to Plaza de Los Coches, my heart still racing, I nearly burst at how different the scene appeared from the video. Not only were there vendors selling coconut treats, cigars and touristy tchotchkes throughout the main building, but there was trash everywhere. I thought to myself that Tito must have had one fine clean-up crew the day of the shoot. It wasn’t until I returned home and researched further the tourist attractions of Cartagena that I realized I had misjudged the colonial gold. The video was shot at Las Bovedas, a long building that once served as a jail, meaning I missed it completely. But since Cartagena is only 2 short hours away, I know this won’t be my last visit to this beautiful city, and now I have a reason to return.
Making my way through the busy market, I was approached by a man who said clearly, “Hello, how are you, do you speak English?” He introduced himself as Blas Blanco, guia de tours, and we instantly began talking like friends about California, New Jersey and Colombian football versus American baseball. I explained to Blas about the Tito video pilgrimage, and we both laughed at my finding the market to be completely different. I added that I was in search of a good plastic ring (a favorite travel souvenir) and Blas took me to a vendor selling beautiful shells pressed in lucite for $5000 COP (about $2.50 US).
After walking through the historic streets, we stopped for a Pony Malta and Blas explained to me why he’s not on Facebook, Twitter or even has email. “I keep it simple. A phone with texts and calls, and my job is all personal networking. People refer people to me and they find me in the plaza every time.” As we parted ways, I vowed to Blas to post his photo on my blog (just in case he braves the Internet café one day) and took to heart his words of living with sheer simplicity.
When the solution is simple, God is answering.
- Albert Einstein ( German theoretical physicist, 1879-1955)
Exhausted from the day(dream come true) of Distro Historical de Cartagena, I went to bed early and woke with a plan to visit Playa Blanca off Isla Barú. Currently WorldTeach has three volunteers living on Isla Barú – Megan, Alex and Joe. Unfortunately this weekend they were in Santa Marta, so my adventure to see their al fresco school and frog-filled home is on hold for now.
“You can devise all the plans in the world,
but if you don’t welcome spontaneity; you will just disappoint yourself.”
― Abigail Biddinger (the other AlBid)
Cartagena Dia 2
The day trip by boat to Isla Barú was advertised at $50000 COP, which for me was spendy, and honestly, I wanted to see how the locals get there. I shared my plan to take the bus to Pasacaballos, then a mototaxi to the ferry over to the isla with Stephano, Deborah and Jim.
Parting ways after coffee, the group wished me luck just before introducing me to Silvio from Argentina, who agreed to join me in my adventure to Playa Blanca. Less than an hour later, I was running for the bus to Pasacaballos with Silvio, Gonzalo, Federico, Silvia, Maggie and Lucia, all from Argentina.
After the initial yelling of “Pasacaballoooos!” like we were on a roller coaster, the group passed around mate in a small ceramic cup. I always imagined my first real mate experience would be in a café in Buenos Aires, but as the cup was passed to me, I knew better than to refuse it, the hot grassy flavor flowing easily over my tongue through from the metal bombilla. Ahhh refreshing.
40 minutes of bumpy road and Vallenato music later, our crowded bus arrived in Pasacaballos, a small town with ferry access to Isla Barú. We walked a few blocks to find the rusty, flat ferry already loaded with people, cars and motorcycles. Jumping several feet from shore to ferry, we barely made it on before the boat set off to cross the murky river. Once on the other side, mototaxis swarmed us for rides to Playa Blanca. “Gringa, I take you! Beach, ride, Gringa, here!” The energy, sounds and smells were dizzying under the hot Caribbean sun.
I was grateful for my new Argentinian friends, who negotiated firmly (“no we will not pay more for the American”) with a taxi driver named Hermés to take our group , and finally we were on our way, traveling down a dusty rock road through fields of cattle, past small tiendas and shacks.
Arriving at Playa Blanca, we walked down the uneven concrete stairs to find a beautiful, white-sand beach with palm trees, blue skies and clear turquoise water. The group let out a collective celebratory sigh at the beauty before walking beyond the families and huge crowds in the shallow shoreline until we found a half-shaded, half-sunny spot to settle.
An entire day was spent swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, playing cards and taking photos: it appeared that everyone enjoyed just relaxing among beauty, nature and touristy hammock hotels on the beach.
After calling for a taxi pickup, we said goodbye to Playa Blanca as the sunset over Isla Barú. Hermes was fast and efficient in retrieving us and dropped our group off promptly after seeing the long traffic line. We walked for what seemed like miles, among huge commuter buses and families in cars, to reach the ferry.
It quickly became apparent there was no sense of urgency to shuttle people off the island, and I wondered as we passed them how many of them would actually be spending the night there. Once again, I was grateful for the Argentines, as the evening fell in Cartagena and our group traveled back to the hostel, retracing our original steps.
A goal without a plan is just a wish.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer (1900 – 1944)
Exhausted from the adventure to Playa Blanca, I went to bed early and woke the next day to pack my bags for the return trip to Barranquilla. Before leaving, I had one last cup of coffee with Silvio, who showed me photos of his barrio and its metro stop in Buenos Aires. As we talked about travel, music, people and life plans, I realized this weekend, among the new connections and memorable adventures, I had made a goal a reality through my plan to visit Cartagena and see a place I’ve dreamed about.
“First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.” – Napoleon Hill (American author, 1883 – 1970)
Carnaval de Barranquilla 2014 blew into Colombia like a hurricane: starting with slow winds a month ago, building with showers of colorful confetti and costumes, and finally, erupting into a full-blown, four-day party resplendent with celebratory music, parades in the streets and people dancing at all-night parties: a tumultuous storm that left intense and blurry memories for everyone who stepped in its path.
Last weekend’s Guacherna opened the Carnaval skies to start the festivities; my friend Shauna and I ventured out on a Friday with some neighbors and met a friendly group, Cumbiamba La Guapachosa, who were performing in the evening parade. We met Willy, the Flauta de Carrizo player who mastered the flute made from a hollowed reed.
We reveled in meeting the dancers, who insisted we try on their giant faldas and pose for photos. I learned very quickly not to refuse the offer to wear a skirt, even if you have to hold it with one hand while dancing. After catching a ride in their chartered bus, Cumbiamba La Guapachosa insisted we walk the parade route with them, leaving our feet tired from dancing and our faces aching from smiling as we headed home.
Still glowing from Guacherna, the real celebration kicked in Friday night, with scheduled “official” events and small parties outside houses scattered throughout the approximately 150 barrios in La Arenosa. Exhausted from a week of teaching, and my heart aching from the tragic and sudden death of a beloved student, I stayed home and saved my energy for the weekend. (Side note: I lost a beautiful and brilliant Marianista from my school and may or may not blog about this later. For now, prayers go out to her sweet family during this difficult time.)
On Saturday I joined my compañeros from WorldTeach to watch the Batalla de Flores from street-side seats. Crowded together on plastic chairs under a glowing red shade tent, we drank Aguila in cans and passed around bottles of Aguardiente, while huge floats covered with plaster decorations and giant paper flowers swooshed by. Fit dancers in bikini costumes and elaborate groups in traditional dress marched by for hours.
Caught up in the celebration, our group (and several parade-viewers around us) honored the Carnaval custom of smearing each other’s faces with cornstarch and spraying candy-scented soapy espuma.
The remaining days and nights were filled with huge outdoor parties, crowded taxi rides to different barrios and hours of dancing with locals and tourists alike. The parade in my barrio, San Jose, filled Carrera 21B with colorful floats, wild costumes and families gathered together on hiatus from school and work.
I enjoyed meeting several Barranquilleros, including Jésus, his brother David and their humorous uncles, as well as many other happy, welcoming people excited by the international draw of their annual event. With street parties giving way to clubs, many places such as local favorite La Troja experienced massive, messy crowds of people dancing and celebrating into the early morning hours.
As the weekend of Carnaval de Barranquilla 2014 spilled into Monday and Tuesday, my barrio became noticably sparse; businesses that are regularly open during the day were closed and locked up tight.
The local Olimpica, with it’s bare shelves, looked like a Kroger before a snowstorm in Georgia. Still, the street parties continued, and people sat out on their porches until late at night, extending friendly hello’s to those passing by.
With the hurricane eye safely out of range, Barranquilla seems to be returning to it’s Costeño way of living: wigs and costumes are put away until next year, and many people will resist sipping Old Parr (for at least a week). Having immensely rejoiced in this year’s Carnaval, I now understand the Colombian saying, “Quien lo vive, lo goza,” or she who lives it enjoys it. Absolutamente!
As I turn the corner on my first month in Barranquilla, Atlántico (Colombia), I find myself writing lists in my Attic Journal from Spanglish Arte (Sacramento, CA). Each list has its own page in the journal and, so far, just a few items under each title:
What I Notice
What I Don’t Understand
What I Hope to Know
What I Miss
What I Wish I Had Brought With Me
What I Brought but Don’t Really Need
What I’m Happy to Have With Me
What I Like
Recently, fighting off a dip in the W, I was torn between What I Miss and What I Notice; this week, what I notice is how poorly people drive here. I’ve heard traffic is bad in Argentina, but twice this week I was nearly hit, first by an impatient taxi turning right on a red light (is that even a law here? Who knows!) and next by a mototaxi who drove up on the sidewalk to get around a parked car. “It’s a sideWALK not a sideRIDE.” I also notice nearly everything I eat makes me feel sick, not violently ill or vomitous, but like a candy pinch: that cramp in your stomach that you get after you eat too much candy. If only it were from a giant bag of pastel Robin’s Eggs.
Moving on to What I Like, last weekend my friend Shauna and I walked a few blocks through our neighborhood to the nearby Cancha de Futbol de Sevillar for a free outdoor party in anticipation of Carnaval. While the actual Carnaval is not until the beginning of March, Barranquilleros begin celebrating at the end of January.
Arriving in barrio Sevillar, we found blocked-off streets with police patrols, donkey carts selling fresh fruits, street meat asados, and people gathered at corner tiendas enjoying cervezas and chatarra. Of course, Vallenato music was blasting and people shouted at each other over the festivities. We walked onto the sandy lot of la cancha towards the huge stage and were soon surrounded by smiling faces of the growing audience. Once the music started, a young man introduced himself as Eddy and insisted we dance with him and his friends. People looked on and laughed as the “gringas” twirled and bailado, oblivious to any potential criticism of our moves.
The woman who sang for the band on stage was simple yet incredible; with a silver sequined top hugging her every womanly curve and her tan thighs spilling out of black shorts, her entire body seemed volcanic and yet melodic as she rhythmically danced and led the songs. As I observed this singer, I couldn’t help but remember when the US dubbed Jessica Simpson “fat” for gaining weight and performing with a few extra pounds. In Colombia, Jessica would be revered as sensual, feminine and “normal,” which to me, she is.
For the next few days, I began to notice the people here; to my surprise, few people who are emaciated or frightfully underweight. Women have realistic figures and even the naturally-thin girls have curves. Saturday, I watched a statuesque woman in a bright yellow top, tight jeans and heels flirt openly with a mototaxi, then hop on the back seat like she owned it (for $2000 COP and 10 minutes, she did).
Sunday at Playa PradoMar, I watched curvaceous girls in bikinis splashing in the shore. I met Roxy and her friends – three beautiful, non-skinny Colombians with gorgeous smiles, infectious laughter and a taste for Aguila – who playfully poked at me through my tankini as we posed for photos. While this may have made me self-conscious in the US, here it just makes me laugh and feel “normal.”
Completing an exercise in my 4th grade class a few days later, I was disappointed to find the publisher had included, on a page about describing who we are the option for “I am fat/thin,” after “I am short/tall.” While short/tall is clearly obvious, several students seemed confused by fat/thin; as mentioned before, all of my students are beautiful.
With body image an important aspect of kids’ lives, I decided to change the words in the book, and had my students write “pretty” instead of fat or thin. I told them (as my fantastic mom told me), “people come in all shapes and sizes,” and added, “and all of you are pretty.” Because they are. They beamed at this declaration, and now we sometimes say, “hello pretty!” to each other in the halls.
With another week as a volunteer in Colombia coming to an end, I am grateful to have noticed more, including the beauty in those around me, how to successfully avoided being hit by a taxi and walking upright while feeling the candy pinch. Currently, I’m focusing more on the What I Hope to Know list, including how to not get lost in a city with no printed maps, and why the sidewalks resemble all heights of Crossfit jump boxes. More on those as I discover them…
Week 2 of my life in Colombia came and passed quickly, and with Carnaval less than a month away, I suspect time will fly by in the weeks ahead. After four days of teaching 3rd, 4th and 5th graders how to greet each other and sing the Good Morning song, our Friday classes were shortened for a pre-Carnaval celebration. As several girls shimmed and shook on the auditorium stage, including one crowned as the Reina de Carnaval, loud and spirited music blared; fascinated by the costumes, glitter and chiffon, I never exactly figured out who was the Reina.
I think of all the girls as queens, and I am blessed to be surrounded by happy, curious girls as a volunteer with WorldTeach. Although teaching is challenging and tiring, the rewards – like a day of dancing and laughing with my students – bring balance to the demands and exhaustion.
Inspired by the dancing and celebration at school, my friend Shauna and I went out recently to learn more about our new city. Along with one other volunteer, we are living in the southern part of Barranquilla, while the rest of our group (Club Quilla) is clustered in the middle-north towards the center of the city. I am incredibly grateful that I can walk to my school (definitely one of my highest priorities regarding placement), but I have been told that I live in an “unsafe” part of the city. In my first week teaching, the other teachers told me not to carry a cell phone or electronics, and to constantly change my walking route so my schedule is not memorized by locals with intrigued by the gringa.
My opinion varies greatly on what constitutes “unsafe.” I have lived in many cities deemed dangerous by the media and, despite the rumors about some areas of the world, they don’t always match real life situations. When I lived in Jalisco (MX), I always felt safe, even walking alone, however, living Atlanta and Baltimore (US), not so much. As I walk to and from school, I observe people rushing to work or sweeping their patios early in the morning. Mototaxis zoom past, cars converge and buses billow exhaust: all seemingly normal things to me. Everyone I see says “Buenos dias,” and in the hot afternoons, simply, “buenas. So far, nothing has felt threatening and malo, and I am grateful to God for keeping me safe.
After Shauna and I briefly discussed safety, we opted to walk from Carerra 20 to Carrera 44 – about 24 long city blocks – taking in the scenery and barrios along the way. At one point, we were surrounded by mechanic shops, the streets crowded with cars being serviced on blocks and transmission fluid flowing onto the sidewalk. Although this felt like the sketchiest part of our walk, with cat calls and constant stares, we were soon out of the oily blackness and into an apparently “better” area. We kept waiting for the feeling of “transition,” where the crappy area gives way to the posher part, but couldn’t exactly decide where it was.
Shauna and I first walked to Centro near Plaza San Nicolas, a place I have been curious about even before arriving to Barranquilla. For months, the Iglesia San Nicolas was the desktop image on my computer, and I had the same spooky feeling in front of Iglesia San Nicolas as I did at the Basilica de Guadalajara: after months of hoping and dreaming about being there, I am. Visioning® works wonders in my life, and there is nothing like having tangible proof. Ask. Believe. Receive.
Iglesia San Nicolas is a huge church, painted brightly in orange, blue, and cream, with tall steeples and gigantic doors. Inside the sanctuary is spacious, with marble floors and many rows of wooden pews leading up to a grand altar. At the time I visited, there was a service going on, and I watched a street dog trot up the center aisle, then turn left to sit at the front. I was reminded of an article I recently read about a faithful dog who visits his deceased owners church, and I loved seeing this Colombian canine feel welcome in the iglesia.
Centro consists of several blocks bustling with street vendors, shanty-like kioskos, open-sidewalk restaurants, people shouting over loud Vallenato music, and the smell of fritos, fried cornmeal prepared several different ways. I bought a mirror for $2500 COP (about $1.25 USD) from a handsome vendor who wanted to speak English with me, “Hello! My name is Ubito. Thank you.” I regret now not asking to photograph his beaming smile and table of everything from espejos to bootleg CD’s.
Many people recognized us as foreigners and said, “Good afternoon,” or “hello, how are you?” When we replied “Fine, thanks, how are you?” our responses were met with blank stares or laughter; greetings are probably the extent of English for many.
After Centro, we met with our new friend Rafael and enjoyed a traditional Colombian lunch (beans, rice, patacones, yucca and ensalada), before heading to Museo del Caribe, a concrete building with a huge open patio for special events. Inside, the museum exhibits and displays are large and informative, but not very interactive, and the museum overall seems dark and cold, although the first attraction, the Gabriel Garcia Marquez room, is a reputable homage to the great writer filled with books, his typewriters, and cameras.
The Marquez room offers a beautiful animated film based on his famous titles, including Love in a Time of Cholera and 100 Years of Solitude. Clearly, Garbiel Garcia Marquez is greatly revered in Colombia, as he should be. Overall, the Museo del Caribe is good for a one-time visit. I expected color and excitement – it’s the Caribbean, after all! But honestly, the museum could use some vibrancy and intrigue for the visitor.
As we headed home escorted by Rafael, Shauna and I agreed we have much to learn about Barranquilla, not just it’s culture and the incredible Costeño accent, but where we are, where we are headed and how to get there.
Passing by a place where we recently enjoyed dinner, we saw our waitress friend, Gigi, who exclaimed cheerfully after besitos, “¿Cuándo vas a volver a verme?” (when are you coming to see me?). Suddenly, the feeling of being a stranger dissipated on the night air, mixing with the smell of fritos and sound of Vallenato music.
Several months ago, I made a pact with the Universe, focused, prayed, manifested, practiced Visioning® and now I’m here, in Barranquilla, Atlántico, where I asked to be. As expected, the past week has been a mix of everything from confusion and frustration to gratitude and joy, as I settle into my placement. Graciously, my friend Mark reminded me in a recent chat that it’s only a matter of time before I’m situated and living comfortably with my host family, their cute dog and two birds.
My primary reason for coming to Barranquilla is volunteering for a full year with WorldTeach Colombia. Fortunately, my school is a beautiful, all-girls Catholic institution about 20 minutes walking distance to my house; with local traffic being a cross between the classic arcade game Frogger and the streets of Vietnam, I am very thankful for the location.
The school is large, with an open courtyard and large classrooms holding between 32 and 40 students each. In addition to a gymnasium and cafeteria, the school has it’s own tienda inside the gates – humorous to me but safe for students during the daily break. I teach early in the mornings, arriving at 6:30 a.m, and I’m finished around 12 p.m, leaving afternoons free to lesson plan on the back patio of my host family’s home, where my friend el pájaro performs his serenata and whistles with me.
My classes average an hour each, and students are engaged for nearly all of the lesson. Since this week includes introductions, we sang songs, wrote conversations in notebooks, recited greetings and played a few games. I am delighted with the smiles of the girls when they realize they understand something in English, and I enjoy the colorful stickers they give me before and after class.
I have only had to separate a few students when the talking is incessant, especially during the announcements and prayers. Remembering that Oprah Winfrey describes herself as “the girl in class that never stopped talking“, I try to be gentle but firm with these future superstars, whose beautiful Colombian names (Roseangelita, Mariajuliana, Estefany) are my biggest learning challenge so far.
During the week my new friend Oscar took me to his family’s finca near Malambo, a small town with colorful buildings and small streets just past Soledad and the airport. As we rode in his farm-ready, 1983 Nissan Patrol through acres of mango trees, the breezes kicked up dust and swirled yellow tree flowers across the road – like the scenes in animated movies where pixie dust paves the way to a wonderland.
For hours I chased chickens, talked turkey, patted piglets, cuddled kittens and embraced my favorite, the burro, as well as milked a cow for the first time in many years.
I still don’t know why I’m so enamored with farm animals, but it was great talking with all of them, my vegetarian conscience clear and happy.
On a second visit in the same week, my friend and WorldTeach compañera Shauna joined us for homemade sancocho and long walks around the property. We both agreed fincas are the answer to relaxation and rejuvenation in Colombia, with beautiful Santa Cruz being our first experience.
Over the weekend, I joined several WorldTeach Colombia volunteers from “Club Quilla” for a day at the beach. Turipaná was a noisy, warm 45-minute bus ride north, and as we walked across the black sand towards salty surf, I remembered the credo of our training: no expectations! I’ll admit I felt sad, not seeing white sand and blue water, but after a cold Aguila and a swing in the rope hammock under our palapa, I let go and felt South America soak in.
A delicious lunch of fried fish, coconut rice and patacónes helped put my mind at ease, and as I devoured the day’s comida, I remembered there are other beaches to visit, including the picturesque Santa Marta, and a year ahead to see many places.
After standing for the entire bus ride home and feeling a bit of a sunburn, I stopped with our group to take in the delights of a Cumbia dance party going on in the street, complete with live music and traditional clothing.
Finally, I made my way home on the bus and collapsed in my twin bed after a refreshing cold shower, thinking about how completely different my life is now from this time last year. I decided at that moment to let go of the comparisons, lose the expectations, and accept my new mantra:
It is what it is.
For the final day of our WorldTeach Orientation, volunteers were treated to an exceptional occasion in Bogotá, arranged by our incredible founders and directors, Luis Enrique Garcia and Pablo Jaramillo Quintero. Early in the morning, after packing our bags for prospective placements, we traveled by bus to the Casa de Nariño (Presidential Palace), where we cleared security and waited patiently for Juan Manuel Santos Calderón to arrive. El Presidente extended a warm welcome to our group, a combination of WorldTeach Colombia, Volunteers Colombia and SENA (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje).
President Santos expressed his gratitude for the teachers for being a part of the bilingual movement in Colombia, before turning the microphone over to a Volunteers Colombia member, who spoke in Spanish and English about his positive and enriching experiences for the past 2 years. The President then circled the room, shaking hands, asking where volunteers were from, and stopping for photos. Following the greeting, volunteers were served delicious coffee in fine porcelain, agreeing with one another that this unique experience was simply fantastic.
After meeting President Santos, our group reassembled outside the palace gates for some last-minute photos and goodbye hugs before boarding a bus to the airport. Club Med (Medellin), The Brits, Club Quilla (Barranquilla) and Crew Barú all represented.
Several hours later, Club Quilla arrived in Barranquilla, where we were dropped off at our host families’ houses in the dark, porch lights and screened areas lit to welcome weary volunteers. Beatriz and Luis have opened their home to me and I am grateful. My room is large and sparse with plenty of sunlight, and just outside is a busy street with friendly neighbors, large patios and corner tiendas on every other block.
The sounds of Colombian music and reggaeton are constant day and night, and as I washed my clothes in the warm afternoon, I sang along to some Don Omar, certain la familia will learn, poco y poco, soy loquita.
I am thrilled to have my friend Shauna, a WorldTeach volunteer from Kentucky, just across the street and a few houses down. Because we are further south in the city than the rest of Club Quilla, we are not as close to the others and have already missed a group trip to the beach on our first day here.
Fortunately, Shauna and I made up for missing the beach by going out for pizza in the evening with two friendly and talkative Costeños, Oscar and Rosanna, who discussed with us everything from Colombian politics to managing fincas to the best salsa clubs in the city.
After exchanging phone numbers and saying goodbye to our new amigos, Shauna and I agreed Barranquilla is going to be a great place to learn and grow in Colombia, both by teaching English and embracing what the country has to offer. Gracias a Díos por mi vida buena y especialmente por mi barrio, mi familia host y mis amigos nuevos. ¡VIVA!
Adapting to Colombian culture and learning to accept sudden changes in schedules (or not really having a set schedule) appearing to be working for most volunteers as does doing things “in the moment.” For our goodbye and to celebrate completion of our Practicum and orientation, WorldTeach Colombia 2014 volunteers enjoyed a delicious farewell asado prepared by the staff of Finca Santa Cruz, while anticipating departure to our placement locations on Monday.
Just when we thought orientation was over… we received news yesterday of an unexpected delay…quite possibly of the best kind… giving us one bonus “free” day to explore the area around Bogotá.
While the news will remain a secret for now, volunteers took full advantage of the time, with many groups going to the city to shop, others planning a hike in the nearby mountains, and several going to Zipaquirá, a small town past Cota and Chia, famous for its Salt Cathedral.
A fan of unusual tourist attractions, and especially Latin American churches, I joined a group of about 8 volunteers and caught a morning bus to Zipaquirá. We arrived in the small town after a 40 minute ride in a fast-moving bus via twisty 2-lane highway. Melissa, a volunteer from the UK, and I sat up front with the driver, enjoying a first-hand view of the wild navigation and close stops typical of this public transportation.
Zipa is a cute town with a large main plaza flying colorful flags, small shops and cafés, plus several religious icons, churches and common areas throughout. We hiked the 30 meters or so to the famous Catedral de Sal, a large cathedral built underground in a former salt mine. As volunteers on a budget, some of us winced at the $2300.00 COP entrance fee, but upon leaving felt the visit was worth every peso.
Following cues from the informative tour guide (en español, claro), to the large carved cruxes along the dark, stone-lined walkway, to the colorfully-lit arches and huge statues of angels, we were mesmerized by the eery yet tranquil caverns and crevices along the way.
After about an hour and a half in the Catedral de Sal, we emerged to a sunny afternoon and searched for food in el centro area, some enjoying a cerveza bien fria, others a full sit-down almuerzo, and yet others munching on street food, including banoleras – arepas con queso, bocadillos de yucca, and empanadas con carne – washed down with icy refrescas.
As we made our way back to Cota and Finca Santa Cruz, we agreed our free day was well-spent, taking in a new small town while enjoying an historic and famous Colombian attraction.
Mañana we leave Finca Santa Cruz early in the morning for our placement locations, following a special event. While the event remains top-secret among our group and Field Directors, we are all excited (and some even a little nervous), anticipating to be motivated and encouraged beyond words as WorldTeach volunteers.
Time is passing quickly for my WorldTeach Colombia 2014 peers and me; we are in the home-stretch of training, learning to master South American life skills including calculating pesos, eating street meat with maizorca and playing a mean game of tejo, as well as how to plan a well-executed lesson in only 3 hours.
On Sunday our group was treated to a rare “free” day which included another bus ride into Bogotá, this time to La Candelaria, a neighborhood brimming with universities, cafés, street vendors and a magnificent view atop Monserrate, high above the city. Most volunteers rode the funicular, a small electric train that took standing passengers up a steep mountain side, while a few others braved the terrain and walked the hour-long climb to the top.
Religious carved dioramas depicting the crucifixion of Christ lined the stone path that lead to catédral San Augustin, where a mass was being held with the congregation spilling out of the front and side doors. Many volunteers enjoyed the sprawling view of Bogotá, and walked around the lush park area, breathing in the sunny afternoon air.
A small group, curious for more of Colombian culture, braved sampling local cuisine and shared a serving of morsialla, tripa, chicharonnes and plantains, described by volunteer Frank Hand (Paco Mano) as tasting like “a zoo.”
As the climate changed from chilly and damp to warm and dry, we shed our sweaters and jackets, noting a few stares from the crowd. One especially tall volunteer, Justin, had a beautiful Colombian girl request a photo with him; I took an identical photo to capture the moment of this anonymous cultural encounter.
In addition to learning Colombians are friendly and curious about non-Colombians, we were told in our training that if your eyes are light-colored (blue or green), people will ask you for them. While no one directly received the request for their eyes, our group did receive it’s share of attention as touristas.
After enjoying la buena vista, volunteers descended down the mountain, again a few by foot and others by man-made devices, this time, the Teleferico, a small cable car on wires that swiftly moved passengers below. Hungry for anything but morsialla, we split up into groups and searched for lunch before returning to the bus for a sleepy ride back to Finca Santa Cruz.
For our last week of orientation, volunteers began Practicum training: our first day in the Colombian classroom, and for many, the first time ever teaching. Some volunteers fumbled while others excelled, and some experienced ripples of chaos followed the next day by waves of achievement.
Despite living in Finca Santa Cruz, with no Internet access and limited resources, the general consensus for our teaching practicum was that of success, as volunteers asked each other for advice and shared ideas to help with lesson planning.
With Practicum now finished, volunteers appeared to have gained perspective from peer observation and “de-briefing,” where our Field Directors discussed what worked in the classroom and what did not. While some parts of Practicum were difficult, such as traveling in smoggy Bogotá or leading 45 4th graders in a reading lesson, most of us were grateful for the experience, and enjoyed meeting the staff and directors of the schools.
As orientation comes to an end, our Colombia 2014 group remains alive and well, as we prepare for our prospective placements as WorldTeach volunteers.
January 9th marked one week since our WorldTeach Colombia 2014 group met and moved into Finca Santa Cruz. We have made two bus rides into the city to cover legal matters and hear more about the program as well as our role as volunteers within the country.
The first visit took us to Imigracíon, where we applied for a cédula extranjería (foreign identification card) and completed lengthy applications to establish bank accounts. Of course, our Field Directors managed to squeeze in a session during one of our two days in Bogotá, splitting the groups demographically into Costeños and Cachocos to learn about using Visual Aids in the Classroom.
On our second visit to Bogotá, WorldTeach Colombia 2014 was welcomed at the US Embassy to hear more about living in South America and how to protect ourselves from crime, as well as all the progressive work being done to increase English learning throughout the country.
After a break of coffee and empanadas, volunteers were referred to the website for English America, as well as briefed on the opportunities open to Colombian teachers wanting to study in the US on grants and scholarships.
The rest of our second week passed quickly and included guest lecturer Katie Bain, an English Language Fellow based in Barranquilla. Katie’s engaging and interesting sessions included incorporating games and writing in our lessons, applying the Color Vowel Chart and it’s yoga exercises, and several references to pizza as an easy subject in the classroom.
As the week have progressed, several volunteers appear to have bonded more closely with others, some by location and placement, others by sharing common opinions or sports teams. For many, this clique-based community works, while for others it seems awkward, since we are required to share activities and ideas.
I’m surprised that inexperienced volunteers aren’t trying to benefit more from the help of experienced teachers, but my hope right now is that everyone will understand we have a common goal of volunteering, even if we are all on our own journey in life.
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
As another week of Teacher Camp 2014 comes to an end, it appears nearly everyone is adjusting to the busy work schedule, and remaining motivated to learn as much as possible before being sent to our placement cities. More than anything right now, I am looking forward to some free time, including a few evening hours in Cota, plus a rare full “free” day sightseeing tomorrow in Cadelaria. Gracias a Díos por mi vida nueva aqui, y especialmente por mis campeñeros fantasticos de WorldTeach 2014. ¡Viva Colombia!
It’s remarkable when a week can feel like a day, or six months like a month, as happened recently before my January departure to Colombia with WorldTeach 2014. Several weeks have passed, and I am now living in South America, blogging bi-weekly from an Internet café in Cota during my volunteer orientation. Before I dive into the amazing new adventure of my life, it seems only virtuous to recollect and be grateful for the weeks leading up to the present.
Christmas day featured a dinner of traditional, home-cooked German food and wine, plus opening gifts around a tiny tabletop Christmas tree decorated with Latin celebrities, flags and tiny paper strips inscribed with wishes and thanks. The day, which included phone calls to loved ones and a visit to the neighbors, was definitely resplendent with love, appreciation and gratitude, inching closer to the end of an incredible year.
After Christmas, I rushed to pack the last bit of my life into 2 large suitcases (with help from two beloved friends) and caught the 6:05 a.m. flight to Miami, propelled by a mix of jet fuel and earlymorning coffee. My friends Marcos and Esther graciously hosted me in their modern apartment near Margaret Pace Park, and included me in their New Year’s Eve festivities on the 27th floor of a lovely, generous couple, Dominic and Michelle.
I felt truly blessed for my life, with friends new and old, as together we watched the Neon Orange drop down the side of a nearby building as fireworks explode over beautiful South Beach.
Two days later, I was on a flight to Bogotá with an amazing, enthusiastic group as part of the WorldTeach Colombia 2014 program. Chatting excitedly with my compañeros as our plane landed and we spied the first glimpses of our home for the next year, I felt all the anticipation and nervousness from months of planning suddenly slide away as we touched down on the tarmac.
For the past week our group of 34 volunteers, ranging in age from early-20’s to mid-60’s, from all walks of life and from different places within the US and UK, have been living in Finca Santa Cruz, a large community-based farmhouse near Cota.
It has been a growing process for use all, as we get to know each other, while also learning Spanish, exchanging ideas about teaching English, and enjoying home-cooked meals of comida de Colombia.
Savory breakfast, lunch and dinner include variations offresh fruit, baked goods, meats, fish, rice and salad, as well as yucca and plantains. I feel well-cared for as one of a few vegetarians, with our meat-free options including baked pasta, lentil soup, bean casseroles.
The finca is spacious, clean and rustic, with dormitory-like sleeping rooms, his and hers community
bathrooms, large common areas, comfortable sitting spaces, and expansive, sunny brick patios. Our
classes are held in the sitting spaces and we stick to a daily schedule, with some room for flexibility
(always needed in the country, where you’re subject to exciting events like power outages).
On the 2nd day of training, several volunteers celebrated the 23rd birthday of another with an after-dinner walk to the nearby tienda, where saludos included a shot of Colombian traditional Aguardiente and a serenata de cumpleaño by a group of local paisas. ¡Felicidades, Frank!
Our days are mostly spent in 2-hour learning sessions where we learn about classroom management and lesson planning, watch videos of past volunteers working, and discuss the cultural differences of teaching in Colombia versus other countries: all good information to learn prior to our placement.
The sessions fill volunteer’s minds with statistics, theories and methods, our training is helpful an interesting and our Field Directors are really fantastic leaders.
Of course, the learning sessions are exhausting at times, so whenever there is downtime, volunteers take full advantage of breaks with relaxation and recreation, everything from cat naps to card games. On one particularly beautiful day, several people played a friendly game of futbol with some locals, while others practiced wire-walking or relaxed on the scenic grounds of Santa Cruz.
As the first week of Teacher Camp 2014 (as the volunteers have humorously dubbed it) comes to an end and we anticipate the next, whether experienced in the classroom or teaching for first-time, one resounding and universal thoughts appear obvious: we are all excited to begin our volunteer service with WorldTeach and can’t think of a better way to be starting this New Year.
This week’s Spanish Friday is about a tasty holiday dish from Perú: Papa a la Huancaina (potatoes Huancayo style). Even though I am heading to Colombia soon with WorldTeach as 2014 volunteer and look forward to tasting Colombian food, I have been wanting to make Papa a la Huancaina for a while. ¡Disfruitar!
Mi primero tiempo por sabor la platillo tradicional de Perú, Papa a la Huancaina, era en la Fiesta de Comida Peruvian a Sacramento. Yo recuerdo otra platillos, especialmente la muy rica Causa, con atun y aceitunas, pero yo creo en mi mente, Papa a la Huancaina es ensalada fácil, y perfecto para mi, la vegetariana.
Primero, hervir la agua con papas, 20 minutos mas o menos. Cuando la agua son hirviendo, prepara la sauce con queso fresco, leche evaporado, aji amarillo, galletas saladas, cebollas y ajo. Dar a las papas una bañera en agua frio, y quitar la piel cuidadosamente. Lave la lechuga fresca y presentar en el platillo. Cortar las papas, y poner en la lechuga. Cubre con la sauce y aceitunas negros. (Es tradicional con huevos hervir y cortar, por la ensalada, pero no me gusta los huevos.)
La receta es por 4 personas, mas o menos, depende en cuantos te gusta por tu cena. ¡Provecho!
It’s amazing what can happen to change your life in one week (or even just one day). Last Thursday I received an email from WorldTeach, informing me of my placement with the organization as a volunteer in Barranquilla, Colombia. Although I was prepared to gladly be of service anywhere WorldTeach needed me, I have been praying daily for this northern location, the 4th largest city in Colombia (and Shakira‘s hometown), as my home for the next year.
Upon reading the email, I jumped up and danced a wild jig with the dog, phoning my friend and screaming, “It’s Barranquilla! It’s Barranquilla!” The feeling is incredible when you express what you want, have faith and eventually it is delivered. Ask. Believe. Receive.
Still giddy from the news of Barranquilla, I decided to spend a 4-day weekend in San Francisco saying goodbye to old friends, reminding myself life is best lived when you feel awake and alive. Having borrowed a friend’s Bajaj 150 scooter while living in Sacramento, I agreed to return it by meeting the owner halfway.
“There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” ― Dr. Seuss (American author 1904 - 1991)
I took off for San Francisco on the Delta Road along the American River, CA-160 by way of County highway E9. Although Google Maps gave me several wrong directions (including a 2-lane country road that led to a dirt dead-end), and I rode at top speed with the sun directly in my eyes, I finally arrived safely in Fairfield to enjoy some tasty comida Méxicana while waiting to be picked up.
The next morning began with a holiday bang as SantaCon, the annual event where thousands of people in cities throughout the US dress as Santa Claus and create mayhem in the streets, took over Union Square and other parts of San Francisco. In addition to Santa, people dressed as Christmas trees, elves, gingerbread men, penguins and candy canes, all commandeering the bars and parks. The San Francisco Fire Department collected toys for charity, while kids walked around appearing to be mesmerized by so many Santas in one place.
One brave Santacon soul had snow made and brought to Duboce Park, where red-and-white outfitted participants staged a snowball fight. Although it seemed like a great idea, in actuality the snow smelled like dog poo and melted very quickly, while the snowmaker received several tickets including staging an un-permitted event and littering (because, obviamente, snow is litter). Bah Humbug, SFPD?
With Santacon 2013 deemed a success, I needed a break from beer and candy canes, and found the perfect place in one of my favorite SF neighborhoods, Clement Street, with its independent book stores and dim sum restaurants I achingly missed while living in México.
Blue Danube Coffee House provided a delicious cup of brewed warmth, but what I really enjoyed was discovering the Blue Danube Journals, a series of blank journals with decorative covers authored (often anonymously, with illustrations) by visitors to the café.
The weekend of holiday celebration continued, first with the San Francisco Scooter Girls’ Annual Holiday Party, where friends gathered to enjoy food and drink, as well as steal hilarious white elephant gifts from one another, including a large pillow printed with Nicholas Cage, purchased from Etsy.
Next on the celebration agenda was a company party at Gracias Madre, the delicious vegan Méxican eatery in the Mission district. At the invitation of mi amiga bonita Claudia, I enjoyed meeting Gracias Madre owners Matthew and Terces Engelhart, dancing with the staff to classic DJ “hits” (we like to party!), and eating copious amounts of meat-free sushi (sin mariscos, tambien, claro).
Winding down the weekend, I returned to Sacramento where I enjoyed a splendid dinner at Tres Hermanas with friends from the original Sacramento Craft Mafia, founded many years ago by Amy Cluck-McAllister. While we reminisced about early meetings at Coffee Garden (corporate sponsor of Kate Dana Colombia 2014) and the demise of the club due to “irreconcilable differences” among the members, we also gave great thanks for friendships that endure… definitely a craft only time can perfect.
Looking ahead, with 2 weeks to clear my remaining clutter before leaving for my new life/adventure in Colombia, I am counting the holiday blessings both given and received. I am overjoyed with the generosity of others, the support from other for what lies ahead, and the sincerity of friends both new and old. If it’s true that we receive what we give, then I look forward to days filled with wonder, laughter and love, glancing back occasionally, just enough to say thanks.
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” – Mae West (American actress 1893 – 1980)
This week’s Spanish Friday is about a recent sale from my Etsy store. Although Etsy has been a bit of challenging fundraiser for my WorldTeach 2014 campaign, I have made some wonderful connections with a few with kindred spirits around the US. This week’s stellar purchase is from a woman in Massachusetts who volunteers in the Dominican Republic, a country I greatly enjoyed visiting in 2012.
Recientemente vendí una pieza favorita de obras de arte basado en las hermanas Mirabal de la República Dominicana. Kelly, la mujer que compró mis voluntarios de las ilustraciones con su hermana, para ayudar un fundación sin fines de lucro llamada en Cabarete (cerca de Puerto Plata). La Proyecto Mariposa tiene como objetivo capacitar y educar a las mujeres jóvenes en la comunidad.
La arte es imagens de las hermanas Mirabal, con el clasico Proverbio de Perú: “Aunque lo que dicen no es con que lo aseguren basta” en inglés: Although what they say is not so, with assurances it is enough.
Al igual que las hermanas Mirabal hizo hace tantos años, Kelly es faculta las mujeres a la Republica Dominicana para hablar y sentirse fuerte y buscar por segura oportunidades en vida. Gracias, Kelly, por tu inspirando compra, y gracias por tu confidencia en mi, ayudar otras con WorldTeach 2014!
“When you have cleared all of your clutter, you can be of greater service to those around you.” - Michael B. Kitson
The weeks are flying by before I leave for a year as a volunteer with WorldTeach in Colombia, South America. Although the past few days have felt a little low, I’m still motivated by my dream of helping others and experiencing a new culture. This week, the massive clearing of personal items has begun and it feels great, compared with a few months ago, when I was just starting to sell everything.
I’ll admit, selling online has not been how I imagined. First, it seems I am not quite hipster enough for Etsy, since I’m not selling items like $75 wooly hats that resemble the Grinch’s hair or a lamp made to look like a water balloon. By the time the Fiestaware Police got to me, I stopped pretending to know what I was doing.
While I still have some artwork for sale – currently only $20 any size, with $5 shipping – (thanks, Erin for your purchase of 3!) – the vintage items have been removed.
In addition to Etsy, I tried to relearn selling on ebay, with this being my first time returning to the site since Meg Whitman ran for Governor. Of the 3 items I posted, 2 have sold; the third appears to be relisting itself into infinity. Finally, I’ll own up to being apprehensive about Craig’s List, where lowballers snuff you out and spammers link to your email. You’d think I’d lost all hope in humanity. No way, not even close.
I am so grateful to everyone who has faith in my dream. Just to hear the words “I believe in you” speaks volumes. I find myself especially touched by those who came to my yard sales and pop up shop. Thank you all for making purchases to support me in the year ahead. I am thankful that Lauren bought a special vintage fan for her art studio, and that Allison cherished an antique pink clock radio.
I’m hoping that one day UPS believes in shipping addresses and Jeffrey will receive the coffee mugs he so graciously purchased. Dewane has the Sweet Potatoes book I made, Suzanne bought the autographed Howard Finster book, and Rhonda sent a beautiful photo of the glass candle holders lit up in her altar. I’m overjoyed that these things have gone on to bring happiness to others. As for the rest of the stuff, it’s still taking up space around me and slide-riding around in a friend’s car… but not for long.
“The things you used to own, now they own you.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Seeking motivation for the final push, I read a few articles confirming my ideas. I laughed out loud at the relativity to my current situation. Then, things got real: I talked with my friend and published author Karen by phone and felt a shift happen. Karen and I met in Tlaquepaque, where we shared a beautiful, large traditional Méxican home (to which Karen has recently returned: jealous!)
My former compañera de cuarto told me she cleared away all her things on her last visit home to Canada: yearbooks, furniture, photographs and more, keeping just enough to fit in 2 suitcases. Karen returned to México feeling lighter than ever, and exclaimed to me joyfully: “You have no idea, it’s so liberating. Take it from me, do it. I feel so free!”
In addition to Karen’s influence, I am finding myself motivated by the idea of being free of the energy stored by tangible items, some of which no longer bring me joy. I am thrilled at the idea of swapping tchotchkes for delicious food and shoes for stories told in a language that I love. Trading “cool” stuff for the spray of salty air from a place I have only seen in magazines? I’ll do it in a second.
The time is now. I have photographed the cute furniture and rotary dial phones. I’ve read articles about Teaching Traveling, having your life fit into one bag, and how letting go of things opens up opportunity for experience. The boxing up of dishware, retro home decor and copious art supplies has started an avalanche of space clearing. I am inspired and motivated, ready to fit my life into a suitcase and carry-on. Next stop: Thrift Town for a drop-off and tax receipt. Let the adventure begin.
Counting the weeks before leaving for Colombia as a 2014 volunteer with WorldTeach, I am also counting the fundraising efforts created towards my year. I am so grateful for the generous donations received, this week alone, from friends and family, people near and far, who believe in me and my desire to help others. You know who you are, and it truly is inspiring! To keep the momentum going, I started a Fiverr.com campaign and entered an Intership/Volunteer Scholarship contest at GoOverseas.com. It’s going to be great to see what happens next!
My Fiverr® campaign
When I was living in Puerto Vallarta, I ordered a wonderful Mother’s Day gift from Fiverr®: A personalized song by Maya in the Moment, playing her ukelele and singing lyrics based on an online form I completed. This unique gift was only $5.00! Yes, my mom is worth millions, but to me, this heartfelt song written especially for her was was priceless.
Watch more videos and subscribe to my YouTube channel!
I decided to check out Fiverr® for myself and discovered, among hundreds of great ideas and offers at only $5.00 each, they have a category for Gifts, Postcards from… You send $5.00 and the seller sends you a postcard from their travels (or home) around the globe. How great is that?! Even with the rising cost of postage, snail mail is still a fun way to send and receive a tangible message you can hold. (Although lately, Postcardly seems to be making more and more sense…)
My Fiverr® campaign is up now, offering a handwritten postcard after I arrive in Colombia! I can’t wait to see who donates the price of a Starbucks® venti Frappuccino, so I can write to them from South America. Sign up now, donate $5.00 and I’ll send you a beautiful postcard thanking you for your support of this dream!
My GoOverseas.com entry
In addition to creating my first Fiverr® campaign, I entered a competition on GoOverseas.com for an Volunteer/Intern Abroad Scholarship, which offers $500 to winners twice a year. GoOverseas functions as an independent site with ratings and reviews for nearly every available program in the world, including teach, study, intern, gap year, and volunteer along with a great online community and more! For my entry, I shaped a queso y jalapeño-stuffed pupusa from our local pupuseria, La Flor de Michoacan, like the country of Colombia and photographed myself holding it.
As required, I also completed the online application, writing 5 words that come to mind when I think about volunteering abroad; honestly, it was hard to choose. I decided on service, dedication, inspiration, encouragement and compassion. I believe all of these words are exemplary when it comes to helping others and hope I will be able to practice them all in the next year with WorldTeach in Colombia.
As the Thanksgiving weekend kicks off the holiday season, I’m hoping for more opportunities to give and receive, share and enjoy, pack and downsize, as well as find more online contests, create more gigs on Fiverr® and begin and end each day with a big “AMEN.” After all, being grateful for the riches you have now ensures you’ll never have room in life to feel poor.
Amen to that!
“The man who does more than he is paid for will soon be paid for more than he does.”
― Napoleon Hill (American, author and investor 1883 – 1970)
The weeks are flying by before I leave for a year as a volunteer with WorldTeach in Colombia, South America. I am so grateful for the generous donations from Francis, Carl and Marleen, Diva the Rug and others. While the volunteer campaign I started as a fundraiser has been slow (despite my promoting the page on Facebook, Twitter and this blog), I still believe it will all come together just before I depart.
In order to boost my chances at meeting my goal, I created a second fundraiser campaign on IndieGoGo that is getting some attention. No money yet, but as the band Hot Chocolate sings, I believe in miracles, like receiving donations of $5,500 in just under 5 weeks!
You hear that? Everyone, that’s you, you sexy thing.
Thankfully, I have already received a wealth of support and positive comments from people I reached out to about my dream, and even a few dozen people I’ve never met, who have left encouraging compliments about my journey on about.me. Re-connecting with others whom I’d previously lost touch is motivation beyond words to feel confident success is ahead, and yet still feel compelled to do more.
… the things that I’m really passionate about, if I fail at those… what do I have?
- Eminem (American musician, 1972-)
(Yes, I just quoted Eminem. But it’s a good quote! Read it again, you may just agree.)
In addition to putting the final touches on an insider’s guide I’m writing about Puerto Vallarta (coming soon on Fiverr.com!), I am doing other creative things like entering photo contests online and brainstorming possibilities for active fundraising. The ideas range from how to hold a successful Kissing Booth disguised as a Pop Up Shop to more sensible, and less germ-passing, like how to better market my artwork, calendars and greeting cards so people will buy them as holiday gifts. Sometimes the greatest plans aren’t perfectly calculated, but rather, thought up on a whim… because someone believed in an idea.
If I succeed in meeting my goal, it will be a miracle, and if I don’t then I still succeed because I tried it! I refuse to accept the word failure, especially when so many other things have gone South in my life (and I don’t mean to my beloved México). Rather than say “failed experiment,” I just say, “experiment.”
My next five weeks are an experiment in what can happen by doing 3 things I love in life: Ask. Believe. Receive.
This week’s Spanish Friday is happening 6 weeks before I leave to volunteer with WorldTeach for a year in Colombia (2014). As my life lately is mostly happy chaos mixed with frustration (wait, did I just describe nearly everyone’s life?), I am electing to post about something easy, familiar and soothing: Tejuino.
By the way, if you could donate to my fundraiser in vats of Tejuino instead of dollars, I’d take it, though it clearly wouldn’t go quite as far to support my volunteer teaching in the year ahead. Plus, I don’t think I’d be allowed to take a zillion 3 oz bottles through customs. El sigh.
Tejuino es un bebida de Jalisco, México hecho de maiz fermentada, azucar, sal y hielo. Algunas personas creativa hacer Tejuino diferente, si o no fermenta, con masa mismo por tortillas, o masa flaquita. También, algunas personas gustan Tejuino mucho frio o nada mucho.
Yo recuerdo la tienda pequeña, el olor de limón fresca, y el hielo casi licuado. A primero, yo creo esta es el mismo de la Slurpee de 7-11, pero más mejor, hecho en México y hecho de la maiz.
Después mi primero Tejuino, yo fui un experto de la sabor, bebiendo cuando yo tengo la oportunidad – en muchos ciudades, en la calle o en la plaza, y siempre con el popote.
Yo espero cuando me voy por Colombia, la país tine un bebida similar. Yo creo ellos tienes Champús – un bebida de la maiz, piña y otra ingredients – y también Chicha, una bebida de alcohol en Sur y Centro America, mismo de la cerveza de jugo de maiz.
Yo no se de ti, pero tengo sediento ahorita! Y soñando de Tejuino… siempre!
This week’s SpanishFriday is about flags! With the departure date for my year volunteering with WorldTeach in Colombia (2014) approaching soon, I am familiarizing myself with the flags of South American countries.
Recientemente, he descargado el HelloTalk aplicación para el iPhone (gracias otra vez, Lauren Brandy). Localizaciones de los usuarios se identifican con la bandera de su país. Reconociendo la bandera ayuda a hacer amigos para estudiar español con más fácil.
Yo recibiendo un libro de la biblioteca pública, Flags de DK Eyewitness Handbooks, mi compania favorita para las guías y libros de viajar. Me encanta las paginas en todo color, y la información es siempre interesante.
Yo aprendido las banderas de muchas países en America Sur son un poco mismo. Por ejemplo, la bandera de Colombia tiene amarillo (oro), azul y rojo. También cierto de Venezuela, Ecuador, y Bolivia es mismo pero tiene verde, no azul. La razones son historia, guerras y tiempo bajo España.
Una otra bandera me gusta mucha el Peru, por la rojo y blanco: esta es simple, pero orgulloso. Me gusta las banderas de Honduras y El Salvador, el mismo azul y blanco, pero diferente también.
Me bandera favorita ahora (y por muchos años) es México. Me gusta los colores, verde, blanco y rojo, pero me encanta la centro, simbolizo con un serpiente, el águila y nopales. Es fuerte, histórica y valiente.
Hoy yo entiendo el joven cantante, Justin Bieber, mostró mucho falta de respeto por Argentina cuando se limpió el estrado con una bandera de la país. Bieber dice la bandera fue sacudido por un fanático, pero es no excusar por mal comportamiento, evidente en este video.
¿Qué bandera de país es tu favorita, y porque? Dejame un comment. ¡Gracias!
PBS recently aired the documentary “Latinos Americans,” a 6-hour presentation about “the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos who have helped shape North America over the last 500-plus years”. Because Latin history and culture is currently my greatest passion, I watched every episode with fervor, taking notes as if for a class.
I was surprised to find about the treatment of Latinos who served in the military, particularly Civil Rights activist, surgeon and serviceman Guy Gabaldon, who inspired the film “Hell to Eternity“, and Marcario Garcia, the first Mexican national to receive a U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor, who was later refused service at a café near his home in Texas.
Learn more about this fascinating 6-hour documentary that originally aired in September on PBS.
I am grateful times have changed and both Latinos and Americans in the military have grown to be a recognized, respected group who does more in a few days than most people do in a lifetime, serving, defending and representing our country. Some try to turn the attention to corruption and scandal in the military, but not me, and definitely not today: Veteran’s Day in the United States.
As a traveler, I see the military often in airports and bus stations, carrying their heavy, stuffed duffel bags, usually dressed in camouflage fatigues, with dog tags jingling as they hoof it from one gate to the next. On occasion I have bought them coffee if they are in line next to me, and nearly every time I just say, “thank you,” if I am lucky enough to catch their eye. Recently, I learned through the Gratitude Campaign that many people do this on a regular basis when traveling among our soldiers.
Today I am reflecting on veterans and military servicepersons who have touched my life, both personally and from afar. When I was living in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco México I had the fortune of meeting a Marine who worked with Special Forces, training and assisting with both the Méxican and US Marines. We quickly struck up a close friendship and I was charmed by his wit, street smarts, and genuine demeanor.
My amigo Marino rarely spoke about his work, but I sensed it was pretty heavy. Generally, he was lively, engaging and thoughtful, but he assured me that the rest of the time, he had a serious regard for his job. Since my amigo Marino often worked several days in a row without a break, I was honored when he wanted to volunteer his Saturday off by picking up trash in the Rio Cuale as part of La Brigada de la Basura. The kids were excited to have a strong male to carry bags with, and he appeared proud to mentor them in taking pride in their neighborhood.
On this Veteran’s Day I send huge thanks to those who have served, those who are still enlisted, and those who have intentions of joining our armed services. You are all heroes in your own way, and to those of us you protect and serve, in every way. Gratitude and love to you all, including (and especially) my dad, Holly, Mark, Cheryl, Jaymi, Tom and extra-especialmente, mi amigo Marino.
¡Yo preparo por Miami!
Having just learned this week that I am leaving out of Miami, Florida for Bogotá, Colombia to begin my year of volunteering with WorldTeach, I am excited to eat some Cuban food in Little Havana before I go! This week’s Spanish Friday is about Cuban sandwiches, particularly the amazing ones from my years in Atlanta, made at a great little tienda by a very special man.
Yo vivi en el barrio de Home Park en Atlanta, Georgia por muchos años. Cerca la casa fui una tienda, Kool Korner Grocery, con el dueño Ildefonso Ramirez y su esposa, Lucia. Ildefonso hizo las tortas Cubanas muy rica tradicional en la prensa, con jamón, puerco, queso, lechuga, tomate, pan y encurtidos.
Porque soy vegetaríana, recuerdo Fonso dicé, “¡Aye muchacha! Una torta sin carne es no normal, pero yo preparo para ti esta tiempo (y todo tiempos)”. Cuando yo compraba una torta con mi amigo Tommy, recuerdo nos comprabos una refresca (Jupiña o Matevera de Yerba Mate) y una bolsa de fritas de platános.
It’s finally happening. After weeks of anticipation, planning and fundraising, I learned yesterday that I am flying out of Miami International Airport for Bogotá, Colombia with WorldTeach on January 1st, 2014. I’m thrilled, not only about the itinerary, but having time to visit with my friend Marcos and his girlfriend Esther who live near South Beach. I can’t wait to explore the neighborhoods and enjoy some delicious Cuban food!
The past few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotion, from sheer frustration to joyous gratitude, as I eliminate possessions and prepare to leave the US. My plan is to eventually travel to other parts of South America, including Ecuador and Perú, leaving no room in my suitcase for teak chairs or clock radios.
Lately I’ve been reading about material ownership, clearing clutter and being free of excessive things. I’ve read some interesting articles about selling everything to travel the world and tried hard to find ones on how to not be surprised when your friends don’t want your stuff. Most mention the freedom that is felt from having fewer tangible items, and giving up things in exchange for experiences (which at this point in my life sounds great).
Special or family items have been packed for storage into a large box, leaving the rest to sell and fund my year ahead volunteering. At first I thought people would be clamoring for a pink “gossip bench” telephone table or an aqua blue rotary phone, but few things have been selling as planned. Many items have been reduced to far below what you might pay at antique store in an attempt to find them good homes.
Last weekend I held a Super Sale of vintage items, art, home decór and more. Accompanied by a loyal friend, I was moved by complete strangers who stopped to admire (and buy) my original artwork, and wish me well in my journey to Colombia. “You are so brave!” “It’s going to be great!” “How wonderful and exciting!” Encouraging words flowed freely from people passing by.
I had originally planned the sale until 4:00 pm, but bailed around 1:30 after slow sales, knowing Mariachi Alas de México from Guadalajara were scheduled to play at the Pantéon de Sacramento. I could either sit at a table full of my stuff, or go watch live Mariachi music on a beautiful sunny afternoon. The choice was easy!
Mariachi Alas de México performed the night before and I was impressed with their finesse and talent (not to mention their handsome outfits). After the show, I chatted with a few members, who seemed excited to hear I had lived in Tlaquepaque, famous for Hacienda del Parían, where many Mariachis perform when not searching for work at Plaza de Los Mariachis in el Centro.
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On Sunday (after the Not-So-Super Sale), before settling in to watch Mariachi Alas de México, I stopped by the AeroMéxico booth at the Panteon de Sacramento and won some swag. Although Volaris was the airline I flew when moving to México last year (and also who brought Mariachi Alas de México to Sacramento), I couldn’t resist the friendly faces (and the free photo) from AeroMéxico.
Following the wonderful Mariachi Alas de México performance, the band graciously posed for a photo along with Miguel Figueroa from Mariachi Los Gallos in Sacramento. ¡Ay, Dios Mio, gracias por los Mariachis!
As the weeks draw near to departure for Colombia (via Miami!), I am determined to be free of nearly all my things. I have faith it is going to work out, and my favorable outlook beats the crap out of the negative. I feel empowered when the positivity kicks in, and it seems to bring great things my way.
This weekend I have a fantastic opportunity to sell with HelloXOXO in Midtown on Saturday, November 9th, 2013. I’m thrilled to be working with this all-inclusive community organization, and 2nd Saturday is definitely one of my favorite things about Sacramento. While it’s not quite as exciting as Miami followed by Bogotá, it will get me one step closer to the leave date, and that makes it a total Win-Win.
Coinciding with one of the most important holidays in Latin culture, this week’s Spanish Friday is all about altars and Dia de los Muertos. Since I began studying Latin culture around 2009, I have had an altar in my home, usually on a table top or a shelf. Preparing now to volunteer with WorldTeach for a year in Colombia (2014) has caused me to consider what I take and what I leave (sell, give away or otherwise). No matter where I live next, no matter how big or small my space is, I know I will always make room to include loved ones who have passed.
En 2011, yo tuvo la oportunidad por exhibición en el Pantéon de Sacramento con La Raza Galeria Posada. Mi altar (ofrenda) fue por mi amiga, Catherine, y otras en mi vida quien salieron el mundo, incluido mi tío especial y mi Doberman. La theme de mi altar fue “Pescando de Aguacate,” para un juego y broma privada desde Cath y mi. Mi mesa incluido colores vibrante, telas, pinturas, flores, frutas, fotos, y más cosas de recuerdos.
Antes yo tuvo mi altar en el Pantéon de Sacramento, yo tuvo una caja grande de madera en mi buena apartamento en el sótano con velas, platillos de santos, flores, joyera y fotos. He utilizado un cajón yo encontré y pintado y forrado con tela. Me gustó los noches con la luz de velas suave.
Mira una película corta: una viaje de visual para Dia de los Muertos de Enrico Martino
Cuando yo vivi en Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, México en mi casa grande de calle Zalatitan, yo tuvo una altar en la parte superior de mi cajones de ropa. Con los cosas mismo en de mi primeros altars, y también algunas cosas nuevas, yo celebrado la vida de mis amigos en la país de altars originales.
En mi apartamento bueno en Puerto Vallata, con la vista bonita de la Bahia de Banderas, yo tuvo una altar, otra vez en la parte superior de mi cajones de ropa. Mi cajones eran pequeños con pintura verde suave, las muebles incluido de mi apartamento yo rentan. A veces en la noche, con las velas brillando y las brisas de la océano, yo creo recibí la visita de amigas de mi memoria.
Ahora, viviendo en Sacramento, yo tengo una altar en mi casita de los cosas mismos por muchos años. Mis papels, telas, flores y fotos tiene viajado mucho conmigo en los años, pero ellos siempre dame buenos sedimentos y paz en mi alma. Yo se es no importante donde yo vive, pero es mas importante, mis amigos que han muerto tienen un lugar en mi vida. Siempre.
This week’s Spanish Friday includes Refranes Méxicanos, Spanish proverbs or dichos that impart wisdom by focusing on traits of culture and human nature. With the weeks drawing near to leave as a volunteer with WorldTeach in Colombia, I am counting my blessings in friends, relationships and opportunities, remembering some favorite refranes about life, love and looking ahead.
Mejor Solo - “Better alone than in bad company.” Esta es un refran favorito porque es fácil por practicar en tu vida. Cuando tu no tienes buenos personas en tu vida or tu tienes las personas que no te hacen sentir tu eres número uno, tu no tienes alegría, buenos sentimientos, o un honesta lugar con ellos.
Sin Saber - “I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.” Esta es un parte de la poema Cien Sonetos de Amor de Pablo Neruda. Yo creo es muy hermosa, honesta y sincero. En la poema, es importante a ver la tiempo presente, y no pregunta o juzgar los detalles. Simplemente amor la otra persona.
Arquitecto Destino – “Everyone is the architect of their own destiny.” Esta es un otra refrane favorita. A veces es muy fácil para nosotros creer el destino de la vida es porque de las otras personas, porque nos selectos trabajos, porque como nos nacemos. Pero, realmente, todos cosas en nuestras vidas es porque de nos. Acuerdas, tu tiene una selección por cambio con cada día nueva en tu vida.
Que Significa - “whenever you are afraid that means there are opportunities” Esta es no refran, pero yo creo es OK por incluirlo aquí. Las palabras son de una película de los imigracion. Yo no recuerdo el titulo de la película, pero me gusta pensando esta es un idea apropiado por muchos cosas en vida, de trabajo de la viajar a amor.
“When you have cleared all of your clutter, you can be of greater service to those around you.” - Michael B. Kitson
Clearing clutter to most people means the purging if unwanted or excessive items. Eliminating everything from tangible objects to toxic people is said to open up passages for better and more appropriate things to come in. Quite often, we associate personal items with value (and occasionally, sentiment), when realistically, they are just things that occupy space. This point is beautifully made on the blog rowdykittens.com.
Before I left the US for México last year, I tried to sell all of my things. I’m not sure if I would call these things clutter, as they were of some value and good use, yet they seemed to serve less purpose in my life than in previous years. I listed items on craigslist.org, ebay and Etsy, and contacted people when I thought an item would suit their taste. Unable to find buyers, and a bit frustrated with the Little Red Hen aspect, I ended up leaving several pieces of furniture, artwork, and other items with a friend.
Having now returned to the US, I am once again faced with the task of purging things, mostly what I didn’t part with before leaving. Although it is a bit difficult to sell dishes gifted from my family and collage art from my sketchbooks, it is for a good cause: raising funds for the year ahead in Colombia, as a volunteer with WorldTeach. But what’s the best place to sell things, especially vintage furniture that’s not easy to ship? How can I get my things out of the house and into the public eye?
A believer in Visioning® and manifestation, I was thrilled to receive a recent call for a vending/sale opportunity. Almost within the same hour that I expressed out loud my wish for a venue on a busy street to set up and sell my artwork, furniture and households, I was contacted by a friend asking if I had things to sell the next day. (Ask, Believe, Receive!) I jumped at the opportunity, and my Saturday at the Happy Tails 20th Anniversary Open House and Food Drive proved to be worth the effort of scrambling to affix price stickers to the items listed in my Etsy store. Grateful and exhausted, I brought home a nice chunk of cash towards my Colombia fund, motivated by the feeling of releasing things. Let the selling spree begin!
This week’s Spanish Friday is about gratitude and thanks. I have blogged about both in the past, but with the time passing quickly before I leave to volunteer with WorldTeach for a year in Colombia (2014), it seems there is no better time – among the chaos, frustrations, joys and celebrations of the changes now and ahead – to appreciate life and say gracias.
Cada día, desde me dejo de Puerto Vallarta, mi corazón es mi memoria: poco triste, poco sentimiento bajo, poco menos con espero. Cada día, me extraño mi vida buena en paraíso. Pero es no igual, cuando yo tengo un oportunidad por un vida nueva pronto en Colombia.
Cuando soy voluntario, mi corazón es satisfecha, mi mente es clara, mi sonrisa es cierto. Ayudando otras es el mejor sintiendo en el mundo, yo creo. Pronto, pronto. Pero hoy yo necesito dar gracias. Sabes cuando tu dice “gracias” antes tu recibir, Dios escuche tu voz? Preguntar. Creer. Recibir.
1. Gracias por ayudar mi vende todos mis muebles antiguos, arte, y las todas cosas tengo antes me voy por Colombia.
2. Gracias por mis amigos, mi familia y mi comunidad. La gente quien apoyo por mi sueños, incluso cuando mis sueños son loca y un poco miedo.
3. Gracias por donaciones generoso yo recibir por mi gol, dinero igual o más de $5,500 dólares.
4. Gracias por la oportunidad con WorldTeach, para mi en servicio de los otras, y especialmente por enseñar.
5. Gracias especialmente por mi toda vida: por mi salud, mi sonrisa, mi mente claro, mi entusiasmo, mi creer en la buena, y mi confiar en Dios por continuar estas cosas.
This week’s Spanish Friday is about face painting for Dia de los Muertos, which is only a few weeks away. My slogan until the weekend honoring those who have died (but whose legends live on in altars, photos and memoirs) is “No Face is Safe,” (Ninguna Cara es Seguro) meaning *everything* I see lately becomes a festively-scary painted calavera!
Estoy una artista de collage. me encanta horas en mi estudio de arte, cortando fotos de revistas, especialmente caras, flores, colores y joyera. Cuando yo miro a los paginas, yo no veo fotos de comercio, pero fotos de vidas hermosos, arte y expresión.
En el tiempo de Dia de los Muertos, yo veo caras con pintura, coronas de flores y joyera grande, antes yo cortar la foto. Es un buena actividad por usar tus revistas viejo. O tentar tu mano en Photoshop: usar un foto de tu cara y los pinceles de colores!
Tu puede hace una carta por un amiga a poner en correo electrónico o correo postal. ¡Tiene divertido!
Dia de los Muertos is approaching fast, and October in Sacramento is a fun place to be, with workshops and demonstrations happening often. On Saturday I scooted (on the graciously-loaned-to-me Bajaj 150) to Old Sacramento where I found Sol Collective’s Pop Up Art Lab for Papel Picado & Paper Flowers in full swing.
Several long tables were crowded with people of all ages, snipping and folding large tissue sheets. Visitors to Old Sac stopped in and were welcomed to try their hand at paper crafting. One of the instructors, Amar, patiently helped participants follow photocopied patterns for amazing results.
Also in attendance and selling great decorations hencho en México for Dia de Los Muertos was Spanglish Arte. If you don’t already know, Spanglish Arte recently moved to share the space on 21st Street with Sol Collective in what appears to be la boda made in el ceilo of Latin Arts and Culture ¡Felicidades!
Sunday was not as celebratory as Saturday, but it was just as GOOD, at the GOOD Street Food + Design Market. My crafty friend Amy Cluck-McAllister has been telling me about GOOD since I returned from México, enthusiastically mentioning vendors and recommending tasty treats at this monthly indoor market.
Another friend, the talented Lorraine Garcia from Rain’s Embellishments, had a table set up and her fabulous, one-of-a-kind jewelry was flying off the racks (literally, if you include her bat-themed items). I watched as a customer gushed over her newly purchased, red beaded rabbit necklace, part of the Almost Alice Collection.
Also selling unique items was Julia Beckner from Just, whose colorful woven wares from Guatemala and beaded jewelry from Indonesia leave one feeling quite inspired. From fair trade avocado and almond naturally dyed scarves to intricate woven cuff bracelets, Julia appears to have a great eye.
If seeing items for sale wasn’t inspiring enough, you could also print your own silkscreen in a hands-on demo with Kingstribe Clothing. I watched as Earl easily inked, squeegeed and hot-air flash dried GOOD DIY Workshop mini posters, even encouraging curious kids to try it out.
Just before leaving my first GOOD market, I chatted with Mario from Sacramento’s City of Vain, who was amused to hear I had volunteered with kids in México while wearing my CoV American Nightmare t-shirt (yep, the one with the gun). Mario seemed surprised to hear I was in Sacramento temporarily, awaiting my next adventure in Colombia, and noted that City of Vain has a show coming up on Thursday October 24th at Midtown Barfly, which just won Best Dance Night for the Kids. That’s right. You can bring your kids to see City of Vain. In a club. If that’s not punk rock, I don’t know what is.
As the week starts and inches me closer to leaving for Colombia to volunteer for a year, I am grateful to live in a place that encourages creative expression, provides venues to express it and inspires others to come out and see it all. Gracias, Sacramento, tu difundira la inspiración como los frijoles refritos en molettes. (Thanks Sacramento, you spread inspiration like refried beans on molettes)
This week’s Spanish Friday is about la musica de Colombia (Colombian music). Since I am moving in 2014 to volunteer with WorldTeach in Colombia, I want to immerse myself in the culture, and music seems a good place to start. (*Remember you can always translate this page if needed). ¡Disfrutar!
En la Fin de semana pasado, fui a la Sacramento Latin Music and Arts Festival y vi las danzas tradicionales de Colombia, presentar de Colombia Viva!, un grupo danza folklórico en Sacramento. Escuché a la musica bachata, meregue, salsa, y especialmente popular, cumbia. Algunas personas dicé Carlos Vives es el rey de cumbia moderna. Me gusta mucha ello voz y los ritmos del canciones, por ejemplo “Volvi a Nacer.” ¡Que bueno!
El video puede ser un poco más feliz, pero ¡qué gran canción!
En la estacíon de radio, Besame Colombia, yo descubro el grupo Proyecto Uno, el artista Omar Enrique, y favoritos como Juan Luis Guerra y Romeo Santos (antes con Aventura).
Es sorpresa de mi, el numero de artistas de la Republica Dominicana en musica Colombia, pero es buena cuando te gusta la musica con ritmo por bailar.
Yo espero tu eres inspira a descubre la música de otra países y culturas, especialmente la cultura Latina. ¡Tu nunca sabes como tu corazón y sus caderas pueden reaccionar!
I am grateful to be in a city where culture does not go overlooked. As mentioned before, it seems there is always something to do in Sacramento, and this past weekend was no exception. Sunday September 29th was a fun, exciting day at the Sacramento Latin Music and Arts Festival in Southside Park. Now in it’s 4th year, the festival sponsors included KLGM Latino 97.9 radio station, d’Primero Mano magazine and Sacramento creative favorite Spanglish Arte, now at their new location with community-based arts education center Sol Collective.
Food from different countries included pupusas from El Salvador, platinos from Puerto Rico, paletas from México and pollo al la brasa from Perú. Many festival-goers also went across the street to support my iglesia favorita, Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, who offered tasty elote, agua fresca, tacos y tamal.
Though the art was beautiful and the food was tasty, I mainly attended the Festival to learn more about Colombia, the country I will soon call my home, volunteering for a year with WorldTeach. The performers from Colombia Viva, a folkloric dance troupe in Sacramento, began with a guabina, a traditional dance representing the values and feelings of peasants. Performed to a typical chant of the Colombian Andean region, the guabina costume features a skirt, veiled hat and cloth shoes.
The Colombian dancers also danced a vallenato, said by some to be the most popular music in Colombia. Vallenato, an accordion-heavy style of music, comes from the Caribbean coast, or more specifically, the town of Valledupar. It is rumored that Gabriel Garcia Marquez danced to vallenato when he celebrated winning his Nobel Prize for Literature. Modern vallenato is best-known from Colombian artist Carlos Vives, whose recordings went triple gold and triple platinum in 1993.
The performers delighted the crowd with the bullerengue, danced only by women, typically dressed in white, but for this performance, the dresses with large, netted skirts, were colorful and elaborate. The essence of the dance is a ritual that celebrates pregnancy, symbolizing female fertility; the name means pollerón or maternity skirt, where life is created.
In addition to a dance celebrating women and childbirth, the dancers shimmied and shouted in a celebratory dance for Carnaval. The announcer for the festival noted that in 2003 UNESCO honored the carnaval of Barranquilla, Colombia by declaring it a World Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, rivaling the famous carnaval of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Most popular among the carnaval dances are the cumbia, a fusion of Indian, Black and White elements that simulates a couple courting and is characterized by the elegance and subtle movements of the woman’s hips to the rhythm of a tambora (drum) and a flauta de millo (flute) and the garabato, which symbolizes the victory of life over death.
Also included in the performance was the traditional festivity of cumbiamba, where the male dancer feverishly pursues the female, only to be refused and led on, ending of course with her submission to his courting and expression of adoration.
This dance was especially fun, as the troupe invited audience members to dance with them: you could see the enthusiasm and appreciation of the culture come to life upon acceptance!
I was thrilled to meet the dance troupe and they were excited when I told them my news of moving to Colombia. I was especially touched when one of them said enthusiastically, “Thank you for going to Colombia to teach. It is going to be a wonderful experience for them [the students], and you are going to LOVE it!”
As I returned home to research more about Colombian dance, I was grateful not only for the festival in Sacramento and the expression of the beautiful Colombian dancers, but the opportunity that lies ahead in my future with WorldTeach. One of my favorite quotes came to mind: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” by Eleanor Roosevelt. Judging by the passion for dance, lively music and colorful costumes of Colombia dance, not only do I have the beauty of my dream, but I have a dream that includes beauty, and that in itself, is truly beautiful!
¡Finalmente, yo tengo una tienda de Etsy, el supermercado de la Internet para los artes, servicios y negocios, donde la gente compras y vendes de los todos cosas creativos!
Mi tienda es llama KateDana (¿fácil, no?) y esta semana tengo por vende magnéticos de artes y una pieza de media mixta. Me gusta mucha la pieza de media mixta, con el espejo de corazón y la pintura brillante colores.
Para mi, es divertido cuando yo crea cosas en mi estudio de arte. Me gusta mucha los colores, papeles, pintas, y especialmente que mi mente y mi corazón están feliz cuando mis manos son en control. Soy tranquilo, entusiástica, esperanzado y nerviosa todos en uno.
Mi deseo es tengo $5,500 dólares US antes me voy por Colombia en enero 2014. Yo creo, con mi trabajo en los artes, el apoyo de mi familia y amigos y mi fe en Dios y el universo esta es muy posible… yo voy a alcanzar mi meta!
This week’s Spanish Friday is about two upcoming events for la fin de semana: 9no Festival de la Comida Peruana presented by Club Perú de Sacramento y the House Party Grand Opening of Spanglish Arte at their new location with Sol Collective.
En el año pasado me gustó mucho la Festival de la Comida Peruana, con comida deliciosa tradicional de Perú, y también artes, danza folclórico, música. Yo disfrutado especialmente la desfile festiva de los caballos, dondé la gente en disfraz tradicional montando los caballos en la produccíon.
Espero la 9no Festival es muy bueno también! Billetes son $5, vamos y disfrutar causa suave, Cusqueña bien fría, pero si tu come cuy… me voy por la otra mesa.
Mi amiga Mari Areola es una mujer inteligente, amistad, valiente y un poca loca: todos necesitas por un vida buena en negocios! Esta sábado, unirse Mari, la tienda mejor de Sacramento por arte, cultura y más en la locación nueva de Spanglish Arte.
Yo fui un fanática de Spanglish cuando estaba a la calle I, muchos años pasado. Yo se la locación nuevo es un buena mudar por Mari y Spanglish. Vamos por la fiesta!
This week’s SpanishFriday focuses on facts. Today I was asked the circumference of the Earth at the equator, or the distance all the way around our planet. I replied, “I don’t know,” only slightly embarrassed, given I consider myself a traveler with a goal of one day visiting all 21 Spanish-speaking countries. Although Equitorial Guinea is often debated, it is correct to say 21 – definitely not 22 - countries in the world speak my lengua amada.
Here are a few SpanishFriday Fun Facts/Datos Curiosos:
1. Real tequila es todo hacer en México, en el estado de Jalisco, y también en regiones limitadas en los estados de Michoacán, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas y Nayarit. La NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana) regula agave, producción, envasado, comercialización y de información para las prácticas empresariales. Tequila debe ser producido utilizando Agave de la especie Tequilana Weber variedad azul.
2. Larimar es una piedra “pectolite” preciosa que sólo se encuentra en la Republica Dominicana formado a partir de la lava. El color azul brillante es el resultado de la sustitución de cobre para el calcio. La museo oficial de la piedra larimar es en Santo Domingo, la ciudad capital de Republica Dominicana.
3. Artista español Pablo Picasso, su verdad nombre es de 23 palabras, después de varios santos y familiares. Ello son bautizado: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Mártir Patricio Clito Ruiz y Picasso. (¡¿no te encanta todos los nombres latinos juntos!?) Es obvio “Picasso” es en realidad de su madre, María Picasso y López.
4. Por cierto, la circunferencia de la Tierra en el ecuador es de 24.901,55 millas (40,075.16 kilómetros) y más cortos a través de los polos en 24,859.82 millas (40,008 kilometros).
Esta es una pagina jugar por aprende las países de habla español! ¿Qué hechos lo sabes y por qué son importantes para usted?
Living in México opened mis ojos to many new things in life; one of the most appealing was modern bus travel. In Sacramento, prior to leaving, I preferred to commute by walking, riding my bicycle or scooting on my vintage Vespa.
When I moved to Guadalajara, my host mother (Máma Méxicana), Titi, schooled me in catching the bus from our apartment to el centro, and I timed my daily commute almost perfectly.
The city rides were suitable, but it wasn’t until ITTO hosted a vacation for students in Puerto Vallarta that I really learned about the magic of bus travel in México. The 5 hour ride on a plush, ETN tour bus from Guadalajara to Bahia de Banderas featured reclining seats, free WIFI and picturesque windows, plus – the best part – not having to drive. I was hooked.
In January I relocated to Tlaquepaque and frequented the routes around town, as well as ventured out on a winter vacation to the beautiful state of Zacatecas. Traveling alone, a solo passenger on a giant, air-cushioned ETN only further enhanced my love of bus travel.
After I moved to Puerto Vallarta, I continued to take the bus on several occasions, including to the REIK concert in Zapopan. In town and locally, I commuted every day on the green bus marked “Pitillal.”
I rode the San Esteban bus to Rancho el Charro for horseback riding. I took the Mojonera bus to the Terminal de los Autobuses many times to greet friends. I became familiar with routes around el centro and up into los montañas. So much freedom and so little responsibility, at the inexpensive cost of 6.5 pesos, was literally a cheap thrill for me.
Living in Atlanta, Georgia, I rode the MARTA bus regularly when I was in college. I know firsthand that, aside from the Méxican buses being very inexpensive, city buses in México are similar to city buses in the US.
In México, city buses are usually hot and stuffy, with no air conditioning, strange sounds and unidentifiable smells. Often, the seats are hard and uncomfortable and the buses are not always on schedule. In the US, you may have air conditioning or softer seats, but it’s still just “the bus” to many. That said, the buses in most cities I have lived in have their advantages over driving, such as being able to read while you ride. The large tour buses such as ETN or Primera Plus are a reliable, inexpensive way to travel to new places, attend events, or just get out and explore.
Last weekend, my friend Joanne hosted an all-girls’ slumber party at her house in San Leandro. Knowing that I dislike driving, she also recently loaned me a Bajaj scooter upon my arrival in Sacramento. I was touched by her generosity, but still found the trek to the Bay Area a little long on a 4-stroke.
Not wanting to drive (nor currently owning a car), I considered taking the Amtrak Capitol Corridor, but balked when I saw the $29.00 one-way fare. It’s a short, 2-hour drive! Seriously, California, I love you, but when is that High Speed Rail going to be built? Europe has had one for years!
Remembering the buses in México, I looked up Greyhound routes from Sacramento to the Bay Area and was delighted to find a non-stop route for $10.00 (plus a $2.50 “service fee”) if I booked online. I printed my ticket, departed on time and barely noticed the ride, arriving right on schedule, less than 2 hours, into Oakland.
While the Greyhound bus lacked WIFI (one of my favorite features of the ETN), and the bathroom was a dark, port-o-potty on wheels, appearing to be without a sink (thank goodness for hand sanitizer) , the ride was surprisingly uneventful and easy.
The weekend flew by with laughter, crafts, delicious food, tasty cocktails, bad karaoke and an adults-only, dark humor card game. As I made paper flowers and greeting cards, and mixed drinks reminiscent of my Méxican home, I felt a great sense of gratitude to have such wonderful friends, and even more grateful to find they are easily reached if I Go Greyhound.
It’s been said that Americans have a love affair with their cars, and despite owning some rather cool ones myself (like two 1963 Ford Falcon Futuras, convertible and sedan), I can honestly say I’m not a huge fan of driving.
Trust in the bus and sense of curiosity for travel in other places leaves me to happily accept another sign of my adventurous life: the quest to discover what else lies ahead for me, in countries where more people take the bus.
This week, as I searched for tutorials on how to make paper flowers for an upcoming workshop I am teaching (location, date and cost TBA), I found who I believe is my long-lost twin, Tracy López, better known by her website name, Latinaish. While the tutorial Tracy posted on how to make zempasúchil is informative, what fascinated and drew me into the site was Tracy’s incredible sense of humor, and like me, appreciation and love for all things Latin.
Although our lives are different – I travel, teach and anticipate visiting all 21 Spanish-speaking countries, while Tracey is married and lives in DC with her family, including her husband Carlos, from El Salvador (the story of how they met is adorable) – I already feel a kindred spiritual affection for this guerita linda, who also loves to mix her Spanish and English, post about movies and music en español and make light of situations lost in translation that most often end with laughter.
On Fridays, Tracy posts in Spanish, so I am adopting this for my blog and adding myself to her list of SpanishFriday participants. While I love español so much could post every day in Spanish, this one-day-a-week method keeps me in check and levels my paciencia, something I lack in my excitement to become fluent. So, here you have it: My first SpanishFriday. ¡Gracias, Tracy por tu amistad!
SpanishFriday Uno: REIK
Muchos años antes, cuando yo vivi en mi departamento de Midtown cerca calles H y 17, yo descubre un grupo de rock en español, REIK. Atraído por sus caras guapas, buena música con letras de canciones sentimiento, sincero y romántico, yo rápidamente aprende todos los canciones y me convertí en fanático. Por tres años, yo escucho de la música de REIK, cantar todos las palabras y disfrutando las notas.
El película que empezó mi amor por REIK: Yo Quisera
En noviembre 2012, me mudé de Guadalajara, Jalisco México y más tarde mudar a Puerto Vallarta. Pronto después, REIK anunciado un concierto en Zapopan, cerca GDL. Yo comprado los billetes y invitado mi amigo Vladimir a ven conmigo.
An April me viajado por la autobús ETN y cinco horas más tarde, llegado en Tlajomulco de Zuniga, donde Vladimir vive.
Juntos nos atender el concierto a la auditorio TelMex. Con buenos asientos cerca del escenario, Vladimir y yo disfrutado la música de uno de mis grupos favoritos por horas. Esta es un noche yo nunca olvidar.
Gracias a Dios por mi vida buena… ¡especialmente cuando mis sueños hecho realidad!
Unless this love is among us, we can kill ourselves with work and it will only be work, not love. Work without love is slavery. –Mother Teresa
Labor Day is among one of the best holiday weekends in Sacramento. A day set aside to honor the American labor movement and appreciate the social and economic achievements of workers, Labor Day also marks the end of summer and welcomes fall: a beautiful season in the Capital City region.
As mentioned in Sacramento is Go, it seems there is always something to do, from music shows and art festivals to pub crawls and gallery openings. Labor Day weekend brings out some of the best, so it makes sense to be choosy with your time and ticket purchases, and note that many of the events are also everyone’s favorite price: FREE.
Mess (But Don’t Miss): Chalk It Up!
Since 1991, Chalk It Up! has been an annual event, mixing dusty chalk, hot sidewalks, creative artists, indie music, mobile food, unique vendors and absolute fun for a free celebration in Fremont Park.
He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist. –St. Francis of Assisi
This year the Governor’s dog, Sutter Brown, was in attendance at the 22nd Chalk It Up, among talented Sacramento artists including Danny Scheible from Tapigami, Rob-O from Sugar Skull Art and John S. Huerta. Sadly, California’s First Dog appeared bored with the event, and sprawled his Corgi self out among chalky feet and ceramic cups used to hold “chalk water.”
The Tex-Mex Ticket: Tejano/Conjunto Festival
On Saturday, the 7th annual Tejano/Conjunto Festival, blending Mexican-Spanish vocal traditions with Czech and German dance tunes and instruments, heated up the grass and concrete in Cesar Chavez Plaza.
The sassy, melodic mix of Tejano (“Texan”) and Conjunto (“Group”) music got its rusty roots in the Lone Star State many years ago, but still draws people by the dozens to the dance floor.
The 2013 event featured Little Joe and his band La Familia, food stands with traditional street snacks including tamales, elote, and BBQ oysters, and vendors like Trent Harger from Artworks 21 selling Méxican art, jewelry, photography and accessories.
More Bang for Your Buck(aroo): Crocker Art Museum
On Sunday, families (and even us child-free folk) enjoyed yee-hawing at the Crocker Art Museum’s contribution to the 3rd annual Gold Rush Days: Little Buckaroos Day. The museum wagonload included live performances, craft demos, hands-on art projects and a free photo booth (complete with Western-themed props) courtesy of Giggle & Riot.
Trick ropers and fiddlers roamed the Crocker floors among touchy-feely mustached kids and bleary-eyed security guards, all working hard to keep the museum art collection cowpoke-finger-free.
Take Your Time: Gold Rush Days
Winding down the weekend with a brief visit to Gold Rush Days, the Sacramento waterfront (a.k.a. “Old Sac”) was time-warped back to the days of work horses, dirt roads, saloon brawls and bugle blowers. Families and hipsters alike filled the crowded sidewalks as mounted patrols in traditional military clothing trotted past bustling businesses and hay bales.
Gold Rush Days or not, a visit to Old Sac would be incomplete without a visit to Candy Heaven. The store, which was mobbed with happy, sugar-craving customers, flowed well with a fast check out line and sweet samples from the blue-sign barrels.
I fell (once again) for the antics of the wacky owner, Darrin Kreb, showing him my California ID in order to purchase my beloved C. Howard’s Violet Mints, but it was worth it. I laughed all the way home, a little buzzed from the cocktail of my Chick O Stick, Gold Rush dust and another great weekend in Sacramento.
This week the word “home” has come up a lot in conversation; not “home” as in house or structure, but home as in where your heart belongs, where you know yourself best, or where everything feels just right. Having recently left México, my heart is heavy, and I long for the elements that made it feel like home. I left hot, busy days and warm, dreamy nights but, rather than mourn this change, I am choosing to celebrate where I am now, in Sacramento. I find this choice, among all others, is key in making everyday life feel fantastic.
Home is not where you live but where they understand you.
- Christian Morgenstern (discovered on a wall at the Guinness Factory in Dublin)
Recently, someone stayed in my apartment in México when I returned to the US. I asked how they liked their visit and they responded it was “kind of like camping.” I wasn’t sure how to accept this: did they like it? Was it too sparse and simple? Or were the large spiders and lizards, who visit through the open windows, enough to make them wish they’d stayed in a hotel? It was hard to tell, but also funny to hear one person’s opinion of a place that for me felt like paradise: a comfort zone, a happy space and, more than anything, my home.
Friends and followers of my blog already know I am an advocate of Visioning® by Dr. Lucia Capacchione, the 10 step method to living the life of your dreams. What many do not know is that I have manifested most of my amazing homes, from a sweet sótano apartment in Midtown Sacramento to my giant studio in Puerto Vallarta overlooking Bahia de Banderas. By positively channeling my energy and releasing the results to the Universe, I have had some incredible places to call home and my current situation is no different.
Right now I am living en una casita buena: close to Sacramento, but tucked away enough that it feels like el campo. In the distance you can hear occasional sounds of the shooting range and road safety practice nearby (imagine the “pop pop!” of pistols and screeching tires on wet asphalt a la El Mariachi.) Even when my new home feels like a special retreat, the edgy interruption of noise reminds me I am still within city limits.
Home is any four walls that enclose the right person. - Helen Rowland
The casita land has grassy areas to walk on, a giant hammock to nap in and weathered artwork in the trees. Next door live friendly goats, clucking chickens and several giant mulas who happily stretch over the fence when I give them apples and carrots.
There’s even a few gallina ând a large gallo, whose cock-a-doodle-do in the early morning was a sound I loved to wake up to while living in México.
Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.
― James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room
Last weekend I spent a few days camping in Ukiah, California, and was reminded of the greatness within this giant state. Winding roads lead to Bushay Recreation Area on Lake Mendocino, “Where redwood forests meet wine country.”
Little blue lakes dot the landscape of lush greens along Highway 20, welcoming those who fish, kayak and paddle board for fun. I tried my hand at fishing and spent hours tossing my line in, enjoying the “sport,” which both calmed and thrilled me at the same time.
Be grateful for the home you have, knowing that at this moment, all you have is all you need.
- Sarah Ban Breathnach
For a few days, a red vinyl tent was my “home,” and it was perfect: soft blankets and hard earth, bugs outside the mesh windows, owls hooting into the dark night air. My camp group was mostly friends from El Salvador, Guatemala and México, so I felt very at home speaking my beloved español.
We ate together as una familia, sharing warm tortillas, fresh pescado and delicious fried platanos, plus my favorite snack, elote, cooked over the fire. Campers played cards, told jokes and watched sleepy toddlers tumble into hamacas in their pijamas. For a few days, I celebrated this “home” before returning to my current one, in Sacramento.
Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there any more.
― Robin Hobb, Fool’s Fate
Although it is said, “Home is where your heart is,” and “Home is where you hang your hat,” I find two definitions to be more accurate: “the place or region where something is native or most common” and “reaching the mark aimed.” If something common is the same as something for which we aim, then can’t any place be home? Most likely, yes. Therefore, home isn’t a place with four walls, a floor and ceiling, but simply, we are home, and home… is us.
Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling
― Cecelia Ahern, Love, Rosie
Returning to a situation is often challenging… even if the place and people are familiar, chances are things have changed while you were gone. Ever the optimist, I believe that what you do with what you have often determines what happens next.
Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you. – Aldous Huxley
Last weekend I attended a blissful, handmade wedding at High Hill Ranch, and was thrilled by the beautiful decorations and happiness of the day. Reuniting with creative friends from the original Sacramento Craft Mafia was fantastic. Watching everyone and their kids giggle in the photo booth, wear felt mustaches and dance the Mexican Cab Refusal to Pitbull reminded me of how fortunate I am to have such talented, unique people in my life.
Sunday I attended mass at Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, my favorite Spanish-speaking iglesia in Sacramento, where I haven’t visited since moving to México last year. El Santuario is a medium-sized church with a beautiful altar, high ceilings and traditional wooden pews. When I began studying Spanish, I would sit and listen to the entire service in awe.
Some days I feel 85% fluent, and others (like during a half-hour sermon), I feel only 50%. Regardless of my fluency level, listening to the Padre’s flowing, melodic voice speaking Spanish is mesmerizing to me. Some people enjoy the sounds of Gregorian Chants or find their own meditation by chanting “OM“. For me, it’s the accent, diction and flow of Spanish; for reasons I can’t explain, nothing ‘speaks’ to me like it.
On Tuesday I attended a spectacular event at one of my favorite Sacramento restaurants, Zocalo, featuring Julio Bermejo from the famed Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco. The event, which kicked off Midtown Cocktail Week, featured a 2-hour lecture and presentation from Julio and Daniel Deoliveira, official ambassador for Olmeca Altos tequila.
The presentation from Julio and Daniel was informative and fun, and included a slide show with the history of tequila, sipping samples of Olmeca Altos silver, and edible samples of cooked agave plant (dark and chewy, with the consistency of marzipan and a flavor similar to raw maple).
During the event, I sat next to Mike Macaluso, Account Executive for API Global Transportation, who agreed with me that tequila is to México what wine is to California. As a limousine driver and account executive , Mike knows the meaning of “all good things in moderation,” and even tipped me off to an area that may just be California’s next hot wine country. (Interested? Contact Mike and arrange a tour).
After a brief Q and A Session, the event crowd swiftly moved into Zocalo’s main dining room to mingle and enjoy Happy Hour specials on delicious drinks and appetizers. The next time you are hungry for a great event, check the Zocalo website first! There’s often something to do or see at one of their two locations, Midtown at 17th and L Streets (my old neighborhood) and the Fountains at Roseville (ask for Felix, my favorite waiter).
The happiness of Spanish, culture and tequila did not go by without giving thanks for mi vida and gratitude for mis amigos. As I continue to search for creative opportunities, I am reaching out to friends and colleagues, who believe, like me, in “paying it forward.”
Extra gratitude goes out this week to Lauren Brandy of Two Shoes Studio. While I’m not going into detail about her awesome display of generosity and faith in me as a Teacher, Artist and Travel Writer, I will say her efforts truly touched me and made my heart swell.
A visit to the adorable Studio 21 in Davis revealed beautiful paintings in a sunlit room complete with a cute dog and inspiring books. Gracias, Lauren, you are a class act! No wonder you’re getting art deals and more in life…and the prosperity will continue to roll in.
Finally, I can’t write about gratitude without saying how fortunate I am to be in my current location. A chaotic blend of tranquilo y loco, this artists’ retreat (among other things) is by far my greatest gift in Sacramento, but I’m leaving it to its own blog entry. For now, I’ll just say, next to Spanish and friends, it is numero uno on the gratitude list…
If you are an occasional reader or a dedicated follower of my blog (sign up in the sidebar of the site), you know I have been living an incredible life in Jalisco, México, for the past nine months. After training in Guadalajara and teaching in Tlaquepaque, I made a goal for myself to live and work in Puerto Vallarta. By taking chances, Visioning® my future and moving swiftly, in a short time, I fulfilled a dream. It’s spooky once you realize that thoughts really do become things.
Leaving my amazing friends, my Saturdays with La Brigada and favorite cuisine, wasn’t completely voluntary. After experiencing problems with my work Visa (and circumstances that may have taken months to sort out), I decided to stay in the US and look ahead. After all, what do you do when you achieve your goals and make a dream come true?
Not many people know that before I decided on México in 2012, I applied to and was accepted by WorldTeach, a non-profit organization that places teachers in the schools of developing countries. As decision time drew near, I elected to go with México, since I had visited there before and it felt familiar. I also wanted my first experience living outside of the US to be challenging but not overwhelming.
It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams. - Gabriel García Márquez
I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. - Rosa Parks
Its visits, like those of angels, short, and far between.
- Robert Blair
At the 9 month mark of living in México, as school came to an end and my friends had returned to their homes in San Francisco and Tlajomulco de Zuniga, I planned a few weeks of travel in the US to visit family and friends. My idea to fly the friendly skies, drive the back roads, and eat traditional dishes was deemed a success as I washed down tears with tequila, laughter with beers and memories with sweet tea.
Arriving in Sacramento to a week full of events immediately reminded me why I love this city: there’s always something to do, my friends here are fun and it’s small enough to walk around but big enough for major happenings. First, I enjoyed 2nd Saturday, where once a month, Midtown art galleries, shops and restaurants stay open late and offer specials throughout the night. After indulging in Sangria and tapas at my favorite Spanish restaurant, Tapa the World, I headed over to Spanglish Arte to view some vibrant and unique paintings by Emmanuel Archuleta.
After a quick visit to Steve and Jim at the always-fabulous PeraDice Cards & Gifts, the night ended with a 30th birthday roast for City of Vain’s Drew Boyce, held at the obscure and time-warped Pre-Flite downtown. Hosted by his girlfriend, artist Autumn Brown, Drew’s roast was rift with jabs from his friends, including witty Sacramento musician Danny Secretion.
After a weekend of gallery-hopping and friend-roasting, my amiga Valeria and I decided to taste-test the different fish taco and ceviche tostadas available in Sacramento. With the good fortune of several fantastic eateries to choose from, we compared the sabores of local taquerias including Beto’s, Garibaldi, La Fiesta and La Favorita.
After some debate, the votes for best were still undecided, although we agreed that Garibaldi’s makes a great fish taco – a flaky, non-battered filet with piquant Salsa Méxicana, shredded red and green cabbage and a soft, fresh corn tortilla. We also found that Beto’s makes a delicious tostada – plump pulpo and camarones prepared with a hint of mayonesa, juicy lime and sliced, ripe avocados spread generously on a hearty, crisp tortilla. ¡Muy rico!
On Wednesday, I was thrilled to attend the premiere Burlesque show of my eclectic and lovely friend Jenn, who wow-ed the crowd at Shenanigans, dancing on stage for two numbers in themed costumes. With help from her neighbor Dylan, Jenn wiggled and shimmed off bits of her clothing, yet still remained classy and sassy, true to the woman I believe she is. Bravo, amiga!
The weekend kicked off Friday with an outdoor show by Zombie-rock band Kill the Precedent at the free Concerts in the Park, where hipsters, locals and families mingle, dance and swill libations on the grass and concrete of Cesar Chavez Park. Saturday I attended a Dia de los Muertos jewelry workshop with artist and jeweler Lorraine Garcia of Rain’s Embellishments at Spanglish Arte. About 12 participants gathered to learn bead stringing, wire bending and end crimping to create beautiful, altar-worthy necklaces, bracelets and earrings featuring colorful skulls and flowers.
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”
― George Burns
I left for the Deep South Tour 2013 on a Wednesday, arriving in Atlanta, Georgia with a few days to relax and visit with family. As my 90-year old aunt and I looked at photos of México and talked about my dream-come-true adventure, moving there to live and teach, she piped up and told me, “Follow your dreams and you’ll never feel lost.” Just think about that one for a minute.
On Friday, after 5 hours driving from Atlanta to Charleston (with the satellite radio on the Latin Caliente channel, ¡orale!), I arrived on James Island with the windows down, sucking in the air of the sticky summer heat. My senses delighted in the heady mix of salt marsh, sweet grass and hot asphalt that is somehow strangely special to my soul. I’ve heard it said home is where your heart is, and for a wanderlust like me, my home changes lately as often as my moods. Fortunately for me, I have a variety of places to call home, if only for a few weeks or months at at time.
Visiting with family is always an unpredictable event for me; I never know who will show up or stay home. My oldest sister flew in for the week from New York to join me, my niece and my mother, and together we cooked, celebrated and cussed (not enough for a Swear Jar, but close) at home for several days.
Despite their hectic family and work schedules, I was thrilled with the friends who traveled some distance to spend time with me and made it out of the house for the few days of my travel. The visits I had were fantastic: enthusiastic, grateful reminders of real friendship, reaffirming that, no matter how different everyone’s lives may be now, some people remain consistent and true.
After a quiet and happy birthday celebration, I drove the next day to Athens, Georgia, where I last visited over 15 years ago. I met up with friends who still live there, getting together for just a short time, it was as if the years had barely passed. We laughed at old jokes, gossiped about local “celebrities” and caught up on our lives today. In under 24 hours, I was refreshed by the charms of downtown Athens and revived by the view of some favorite old haunts before hitting the road.
Returning to Atlanta for a few days brought my Tour to a complete circle, with my fantastic friends Tina and Ali hosting me in their wonderful little East Lake home. I was impressed with how the neighborhoods in Atlanta have changed: corner shops and gas stations that once sat abandoned and decrepit have been revived into amazing boutiques, charming cafés and fantastic brewpubs.
I was pleasantly surprised with the positive sense of community and eco-conscious energy. Even old favorites like Waffe House and the DeKalb County Farmer’s Market (which Tina dubbed “The Disneyland of World Foods and Produce”) seemed to have improved their business contributions to The ATL.
Neighborhoods aside, the biggest change I experienced in Atlanta was seeing Tina, who recently underwent gastric bypass surgery. In addition to becoming an online writer with hundreds of followers, Tina is now a dedicated athlete who looks and feels more incredible than ever before. Her exercise, healthy-eating habits and mentoring tips for others considering surgery, may be found on her award-winning blog, Fat Girl Dives In.
On Saturday, as I boarded my return flight to Sacramento, I reflected on my Deep South Tour 2013 with sweet memories and new perspectives, inspired by amazing places, family and friends. Recalling one of many great talks with Tina, we agreed that people create their own well-being. By simply choosing to be happy, making positive changes and – most importantly – following through, more people could live satisfying, honest lives. “We hold more power than we realize” seemed to be a recurring theme.
Although we sometimes need a wake-up call to remind us, with friends from several decades ago or new people have just met, by plane or by car, from thousands of miles away or in our own back yard: we are all capable of creating our destiny, with fish taco taste-tests and salt marsh-smells to guide us safely and swiftly along.
“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
- Muhammad Ali
If you were to ask me today my view of life and the role I live in it, all I could do is smile. Since relocating to México, the changes I have made, things I have discovered and people I have met have made me feel reborn beyond measure. With the start of summer, I am excited about the opportunities ahead to explore, relax, and (as always) give thanks.
Two wonderful friends from San Francisco recently visited Puerto Vallarta for a week, staying at Hotel Posada de Roger, where they enjoyed the rooftop pool and air conditioning: much-needed amenities with the humidity during summer.
From our first happy hour at Los Muertos Brewing Company, to meeting Rogelio at El Gato Gordo and Luca at Sapori di Sicilia, it seemed there was no shortage of things discover. I especially love when friends meet friends and become friends as well.
We explored the Zona Romantica and Colonia Emiliano Zapata, with several visits to Joe Jack’s Fish Shack, where the wonderful bartender Tony “Tank” mixed tasty Mojitos, Margaritas and – with special fruits and herbs from home – the Juana Bliss.
Midway into the girls’ visit, a third friend arrived from Guadalajara for a long weekend; together the four of us ate and drank our way through the rain and sunshine. With me translating Spanish and English between us all (not easy, as my Spanish still lacks perfection), I had some of my best days (and grateful moments) in Vallarta since moving here.
Taking a break from my role as a tour guide, I reserved a day to enjoy my own adventure: horseback riding in Playa Grande, exactly what I needed to remind me of how great life can be in México. After catching the San Esteban green bus on Calle Peru in Centro, I arrived to Rancho el Charro to find a caballero, Ramón, tending the horses.
I mounted my yegua, Luna, and spent the next few hours with Ramón and his horse, Cappuccino: climbing, trotting, and exploring along the river and the mountains.
The day went by quickly and, once again, my appreciation swelled for the country I now call home. (Read more about my day on my TripAdvisor member’s page).
After saying goodbye to my Guadalajara friend, I joined mis amigas for a final lunch at Mi Querencia, where they told me they now know why I love Puerto Vallarta, with its ease of living, beautiful scenery, historical references and friendly people.
I was grateful when my friends also said I look and seem happier than I’ve ever been before. If this is what they concluded about my life in México during their visit, I have succeed on many levels, but mostly as an American living abroad. I was touched by their observation and, while I know there is more adventure ahead in life, I also know that with the view from where I am now, not one minute is wasted.
All those … moments will be lost in time, like tears…in rain. – Bladerunner (1982)
Recently I wrote about the Dog Days of Summer Solstice and the rains in Puerto Vallarta. No sooner had I published the post when the rainy season kicked in. It has rained every day, anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours, for the past week. From what I have experienced myself and read online, it will continue like this well into September.
De que tocan a llover, no hay más que abrir el paraguas - Mexican Refrane
If it starts raining, one has nothing left but to open up one´s umbrella (One has to take life as it comes)
Banderas News has a nice article on preparing your home for September’s rains, and one of my favorite sites, TripAdvisor (where I am a Senior Contributor) features a little rain chart within an article written for those wondering when it is best to visit.
As mentioned in my earlier articles, I think any time is the best time to come to Puerto Vallarta, having visited in both summer (hot, rainy and few touristas) and winter (balmy, breezy and double the price on hotels). Like any destination, it all depends on what you look for in a vacation (or in my case, a place to relocate).
Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you.
- Langston Hughes
Two friends are visiting me soon, following an exciting weekend at AmeriVespa in San Diego, California. Before I moved to México, I sold my 1964 Vespa VNB and my 1978 Vespa P200, but kept the many friends made through rallies, clubs and events: some of the best (and most fun) people I’ve ever known.
Into each life some rain must fall. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I am thrilled about my friends coming for vacation, and hope they love Puerto Vallarta as much as I do. However I had to laugh when one of them recently sent me a message about the rains.
In perfect timing, I began recording the rains last week and made a video for my YouTube channel, noticing there are hundreds of similar videos from around the world (like First Rain in Bangkok 2013).
While my 2:00 minute clip may seem to be from a tour agency, it’s really a personal attempt to convey how I see Puerto Vallarta: safe, fun, worth celebrating… and wet, at least for the next few months.
Friday, June 21st, 2013 marks the official First Day of Summer and the longest day of the year. Although there is some speculation by Shakespeare fans about the true marking of the Summer Solstice, if you go by the weather here in México, you will think it is several weeks before. To no surprise, one group that seems attune to dealing with the heat is the dogs.
Although we haven’t experienced the ridiculously-scortching temperatures of Sacramento, CA, it has been hot and it will only get hotter, and then the rains will come. Every day, for an hour or two, just enough to cool things off. (If you feel inclined to bet on this weather, Que?Pasa has a Rain Pool to guess inches, a few squares may remain!)
My first visit to México was in July 2011. With my head full of summer travel tips from TripAdvisor.com, I felt prepared: a good rain jacket, plenty of sunscreen and stylish ways to wear my long hair up and off my neck (to avoid what I call the “hair blanket”). What I wasn’t prepared for was a junior suite apartment with no air conditioning. Surprisingly, I survived the heat and rain, fell in love with Vallarta, and now experience this as my daily climate.
Growing up in Charleston, we didn’t always have air conditioning, and instead found relief from humid days and nights the old-fashioned way: several fans set to “high”, a kiddie pool out back, and copious amounts of chilled iced tea. Now that I live in Puerto Vallarta, I am learning from the locals how to beat the heat.
Of course, people here love bien fría cervezas and paleta from the cart, but another favorite trick to staying cool is taking a dip in El Rio Cuale. Yes, the same river that I clean on the weekends with La Brigada de la Basura, is also “Vallarta’s swimming pool.” It’s said that if you drink the water from El Rio, you will never leave Vallarta. I’m incredibly challenged by the premise of doing either: drinking the river water and never leaving – there’s a big world out there to explore (and I’d like to be healthy when I go)!
The dogs here seem prepared for hot summers, and they are everywhere in Puerto Vallarta. Dogs swim in the river, “help” in the businesses and trot in the streets. Sometimes they are with their owners – like the tiny Chihuahua that sprints along with its dad, running the length of the Malécon in the evenings – but more often than not, they are free, with their own unique techniques to staying cool.
On Saturdays, volunteering with La Brigada de la Basura, we often encounter dogs resting in shady dirt beds and splashing in small water holes along the river. The kids play gently with the dogs they know and often invite them to walk with us while we pick up trash. We talk about how important it is to keep dogs cool in the summer and give them plenty of fresh water to drink so they don’t overheat. The kids seem to love the responsibility that comes with caring for a pet, especially when it’s hot outside.
Recently I enjoyed a relaxing, fun afternoon at El Rio BBQ Bar with some friends, swimming in the river and sipping a few bien fría cervezas. We were greeted by a young dog at El Rio named Julieta, a Shepard mix who stayed with us for most of the day.
Julieta splashed in the water with us and played catch using an old plastic bottle. Though she growled a bit to show dominance to our friend’s puppy, Arturitio, we also wondered if it was out of jealousy because he is so irresistibly cute.
As I give thanks each day for my life in Puerto Vallarta, I also count the ways of keeping cool during the summer months. For now, I will trust the unique methods developed by the dogs and my friends in México: heeding their creative ways to stay cool and drinking the river water only by accident, which, by the way, I already did.
My talented and beautiful friend Gina Thomspon Venturini often writes about giving thanks and showing gratitude; I was especially touched by her recent words:
“If you think you don’t have enough, start taking inventory around your life and I bet you will find that you have plenty. If you have either of these: a job, a car, a roof over your head, clothes, and food to eat, then you have a lot more than most. Before you close your eyes, give a big Thank You to the universe and may you continue to be showered with blessings.”
I am especially grateful for the overall experience of living. In the past week I have enjoyed delicious food, friendly interactions and the opportunity to pay all gratitude forward. I shared two delectable meals with my friend Calamardo, first at Las Margaritas and next at La Mesa de Coco. Las Margaritas delivered great service, incredible cuisine and several cards for free drinks. We were touched by the graciousness of the owner and server, who thanked us with smiles and handshakes for dining with them.
Next, Calamardo’s friends David and Tony from La Mesa del Coco prepared a hand-cooked Sea Bass dinner complete with sides and garlic bread. The generosity and kindness of this establishment is sincere and enlightening: a bartender that loves to cook and an owner that allows him to use the kitchen to prepare food for friends. ¡Gracias, La Mesa del Coco!
Last weekend I attended Que?Pasa Bar and Grill’s 9th Anniversary Celebration, featuring free cervezas, free Gringo Tacos, several live bands and a heavenly pastel for everyone. A wonderful evening in a place where I volunteer with kids and celebrate with adults. ¡Felicidades!
The gratitude continued during the week as I received a promotional flyer from Abarrotes Hilda (the tienda where I buy my cawamas and garrafonts). La Casa de las Cachapas specializes in savory folded cakes of elote stuffed with cheese, vegetables and meat: a traditional dish from Venezuela. ¡Muy rico! I will definitely be returning for more.
All this generous delicious eating and drinking makes me appreciate the non-edible things in my life the most: when people I have only recently met make sure I am welcomed as a guest, fed well and return home safely. I look around and I am thankful for beautiful weather, a cute apartment, new friends and the ability to help others whenever possible.
Thanks for the reminder, Gina. I’ve taken inventory this week and find myself more grateful than ever for my life.
For the past week and a half, I have been entertaining the idea of leaving Facebook; although I am not sure this will be a permanent change, it has been a positive one so far. Instead of reading posts about sports scores, cute puppies and health ailments (like the details of one friend’s colonoscopy. Really?), I have been emailing people directly (so far, about a 5% response level) and perusing websites like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post. I have also rediscovered my love of DIY and craft sites, including Design*Sponge and Crafty Nest, which rival the blog of my talented friend Janel Holiday.
One site I have taken a special creative shine to is Pinterest. OK, I know I am about 3 years behind, but still, this is a great website based on an excellent idea. You create a board and “pin” things you like to it, anywhere from art to recipes to ideas for teaching. It has a basic format and is easy to use, boasting approximately 25 million users around the world (most of whom are female, including First Lady Michelle Obama).
While I’m not yet pinning woven art by amigos I will one day meet in Peru, I am amazed at some of my friends like Amy, AB, and Steph, who have dozens of eye-catching, interesting boards. Following them on Pinterest is like having a conversation: definite reminders of why I love them so much.
Amy’s boards are pink and party-plan ready, while Steph’s are about Vespas and shoes; Steph even has a fantastic board titled “My Town is The Best Town,” with rich photos taken around Calfornia’s State Capital (she’s right, it is The Best Town). When people ask me about my years in California, I tell them San Francisco isn’t where I left my heart, it’s Sacramento, only there isn’t a song written about it. Maybe City of Vain could work on that.
As for AB’s boards, they are all about her love of paper crafts and tiny gardens. In addition to her Pinterest interests [sorry I had to], AB makes art and will be featured soon at a fantastic downtown gallery called RAW . The show KALEIDOSCOPE will include her thought-provoking, visually-arousing pieces based on taxidermy, embroidery and orthodontics.
If you are in Sacramento the weekend of June 5th, I suggest you buy a ticket and attend. I would go if I still lived in The Best Town, but for now I will keep finding new, creative inspiration on the web… pinning my way on boards as I go.
If you follow my blog, you know that on Saturday mornings I volunteer with La Brigada de la Basura at Que?Pasa Bar and Grill, collecting trash and beautifying the area around Colonia Emiliano Zapata in Puerto Vallarta. In addition to cleaning El Rio Cuale, which runs from the majestic montañas to the picturesque Bahia de Banderas, La Brigada often cleans los calles of the neighborhood.
While I prefer the River Days, today was a Street Day, with founder Michael Hayes and myself (plus the help of some regular and well-appreciated 16 year olds), each leading about 20 kids. This Saturday started out extra-special; I don’t believe in coincidences and, after celebrating Dia de la Maestra on May 15th, I found THIS in the street:
As soon as I found the card, I was reminded of a framed print belonging to my grandmother: Guardian Angel and Children Crossing Bridge by German artist Lindberg Heilige Schutzengel. Our grandmother was German, and I always remember this painting hanging in her house in one of the bedrooms. (I believe my Seestor EDW has the print now.) While some speculation over the context of the painting does exist, it has always represented love to me.
Notice that the Méxican version has more than 2 children playing with ducks in the water and their blankets, hats and bolsas are placed nearby on the shore, a possible tribute to the original: bittersweet, reflective and different. I showed it to one of las chicas de La Brigada, who told me, “I hope you keep the card. It’s not trash, it’s pretty.”
As for the rest of our clean up day, it went great – the kids brought a week’s worth of debris to Que?Pasa before enjoying hot dogs, agua fresca and bags of dulces with Michael and his generous staff.
Do I feel like an angel when I work with La Brigada de La Basura? Not really. For me it is more the kids who are angels – mischievous and silly, they bring me back every week for more – more laughter, more good deeds and definitely more happiness in giving of myself. I believe it is the kind of angelic reward you can’t get from anything else.
Interested in joining La Brigada for your own Angelic Experience (or just cleaning up with us)? See details here.
“What the teacher is, is more important than what (s)he teaches.”
― Karl A. Menninger
Today is extra-special as I celebrate my 7th month in México and Dia de La Maestra.
In November 15, 2012, I decided a change was needed in my life and moved to México to pursue a career in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. What I first thought of as a creative way to escape the 9-to-5 grind of a government job, I now consider an honor, enhancing the lives of others. While I am still adjusting to changes in my every day living, my life now feels rich beyond measure.
I had tried teaching twice before, first in Atlanta, GA and later in Baltimore, MD. While I loved teaching in Atlanta, teaching in Baltimore was awful: a time best chalked up to experience (all puns intended). Teaching in México is definitely different. The pay varies from school to school, as do the hours, the condition of the facilities, and even the subjects required.
To no surprise, I have heard nightmare stories about schools in México as much I have read glowing affirmations from professionals that say they will never teach anywhere else. As the daughter of two lifetime teachers (Mom in Special Education, Dad in Music), I am grateful to live in a country that celebrates my newly chosen career.
The first Teacher’s Day was celebrated in México by initiative of deputies Benito Ramirez and Enrique Viesca Lobaton, who proposed, in 1918, that May 15th be a day of tribute to teachers. One teacher in particular, José Vasconcelos, is remembered on May 15th for his philosophy on teaching and support for the arts.
“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them.
They remember what you are.”
― Jim Henson, It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider
I remember some teachers very well, with memories, constructive criticism and advice to last a lifetime, including…
Elementary School Art
Patten Dew – taught me to “hold and hold and hold and hold” until the glue dried
High School English
Sharon Franklin (Leff) – instilled in me a love for creative writing and public speaking
Norman Wagner – encouraged me learn letterpress and focus on book design
Teaching is a job like no other, with every day challenges, changes and, of course, celebrations. Today I am in a country that loves me back and says thanks; on this day in particular, I can’t think of anything better to be doing with my life… or any place better to be doing it.
Check out the website I have proudly created with my 6 Semester students.
We must learn to let go as easily as we grasp,
or we will find our hands full and our minds empty.
- Leo Buscaglia
A continuation from a previous post about Giving Up: more things that are easy to do without and just say, “¡Adios!”
Waiting in Line. Everywhere I go in México, there are lines. Lines in the taqueria, lines in the mercado, lines in the bank. You go and wait in line. The line could be a five-minute wait or you could be there for an hour. Often, I will see people cut in line, but I just give up and let this go. They are either in a hurry or don’t know about patience. I wait and move up when the line moves, staying steady with my place in the queue. If necessary, I take it on faith, refer to Tom Petty song “The Waiting,” written when I was in the 6th grade.
My truck/vehicle. After 10 years of ownership, my 1996 Ford Ranger has gone to someone else and I am so relieved. Though I will miss the fuel efficiency and boomin’ stereo, I will not miss the lack of air conditioning and manual windows. It was a good ride, taking me from Scooter Rallies to baby showers, tearing up Highway 101, but it was time to go. I am grateful to Valeria and EJ for selling it: another thing I’m happy to give up - with a push from the great biceps earned by yet another “feature”: no power steering.
Veganism. When I told people I was moving to México, many of them teased me about my dedication to a Vegan diet and volunteering with animals, and told me I would die slowly after the move. Ironically, I just adapted. Although I occasionally eat cheese now, I am not a full-on carnivore, nor do I plan on eating my friends any time soon. Admittedly, I am tempted by civeche but I stand firm on chicharrones, and I hope to never give up a plant-based diet. After all, nopales are a plant… so is agave.
Waiting for the Weekend to Party. In case you didn’t pick up on it, I love living in México: the people are friendly, the food is delicious and the beer is plentiful. Which is why I give up on waiting until the weekend to party. I see memes where people can’t wait for the weekend, and they make no sense to me (although many are funny).
Here we party all the time. Monday? Party. New job? Party. Your dog had puppies? Well, what else? Party! At times you may need a break from the party (it’s called siesta, you do it on the beach), and that’s OK. When you come back, we’ll be here. At the party.
Quiet Nights. My first visit to México was in 2011 and I gave up quiet nights shortly thereafter. When I returned to Sacramento, and lived a block from Spanglish on J Street, it was always noisy, day and night. This prepared me for México, where regular nocturnal sounds include barking dogs, car alarms, wild cat fights, crowing roosters, buses grinding rattly transmissions, stereos blasting Banda Norteño, and verbal arguments of mis vecinos.
Do I care about the noisy nights? Not one bit. Anything my earplugs don’t drown out is like a lullaby… the sounds of a culture I love, minus some cuss words I don’t comprende. Those I just look up in the dictionary… after I wake from sleeping.
Being Cold. I am gladly giving up being cold. Forever. When I lived in San Francisco I wore a down ski vest – sleeping, walking, all but bathing it in (and then I was so cold, I just cried in the shower). In Puerto Vallarta the days are balmy and the nights are cool. If I could create a paradise weather, this would be it.
Yes, Puerto Vallarta gets hot in summer, and we have a wild rainy season that dumps inches of water in minutes, but the rest of the time it is nearly perfect. Like most of my life before now, when I finally realized how easy it is just to give up, cold nights feel like 20 years ago when I recall them. So I don’t. I just look ahead and stay warm, with anticipation of more giving up in the future.
“You got to get it. Got to give it up.” - Marvin Gaye
A few weeks before I moved to México, I ordered the book Moon Living Abroad in México by Julie Doherty Meade. As luck (and the US Postal Service) would have it, the book did not arrive before my departure, and I set off for Guadalajara in November 2012 without this libro “packed with…must-have details on setting up daily life.”
In March 2013, the book arrived – along with an amazing French Press, coffee, and delicious chocolates (gracias, hermana!) – delayed for 45 days courtesy of FedEx and Customs, who seemed to enjoy “sampling” the organic 72% cocoa bars by the obvious bite marks. I now request that mis amigos y mi familia not send packages, but if they insist, to please use DHL, nunca, nunca FedEx. ¡Que Horible!
I read most of Moon Living Abroad in México in one beach day, and while I found it informative, it didn’t tell me more about living in México than I learned in four short months, mainly the importance of giving up. Not material items – I did that in November and have little left but artwork and papers in the US. I’m referring to to giving up ON things: services, traditions, routines. There’s a difference!
You might think giving up is bad – you have no hope left, desperate and sad, but this is a different kind of giving up – this is the kind you LIKE. This giving up comes as a cultural shift: something that happens without realization – at times abruptly – and then you may only be temporarily confused and instantly laugh. For me, it made me once again thankful to live in México, where every day is still a bit like a dream. In no particular order, here are some things I have recently given up, or given up ON, however it may appear…
A Fancy Cell Phone. For years, I owned “Smart Phones” that did everything – sent emails, allowed Internet access, and even showed me where I was when I felt lost. This changed when my Sprint service plan no longer applied in México. After 14 years, I closed my account and returned my $70 a month calculator. I now have a pay-as-you-go TelCel that only calls and texts. While I may upgrade later to have Internet and the super-popular WhatsApp, I seem to be managing just fine. So, wait, what was the Smart part, again?
Postal Service, FedEx. This is a thorn in my correspondence side. I used to send little packages to Claudia in SF and silly post cards to AB in Sacramento, but lately I can’t even get junk mail delivered. My parents sent me holiday gifts and they never showed up. Somewhere, someone in Zapopán is wearing a nice bracelet (sorry Mom). I give up. No mail, please. Lately I am trying not to cuss out loud when the Correos de México motorcycle delivery whizzes by. As for FedEx, I have nothing left to say but you are horrible. FedUp is more like it.
Change (money). Change is good, I’m living proof. But change as in money, when traveling to México? You will need more than pesos. You will need coins. Lots of coins. And small bills. Many small bills. It seems no matter where I go, no one has change. Not the street vendors, not the Ciel delivery guy, not even the OxxO, where the cashier frowns when I pay with $200 pesos, and they have a register full of small bills. Change is good. It is especially good in México. So when you travel here (and I really hope you do), find a casa de cambio and ask for small bills. You can thank me later (in $10 pesos).
Lizards, Spiders, Cockroaches y mas. I realize they were here long before me, but does that give crawly, slithery, croaking, scaly critters the advantage? Several times I have seen a gigantic iguana stretched out on the piso of mi casa, 5 feet away. I scream like a girly-girl, then grab my camera to document his visit, which is hilarous and contradictory. Living with no screens on my windows, I realize now that the season is here, and my new campeñeros wil be trying out the cool terra cotta on a regular basis. I give up (and scream a little).
Laundry. Ah, this was an easy one to give up, doing laundry. Even when I had a washer and dryer at home, laundry felt tedious. After moving to México and doing laundry by hand, I realized this was a change with which I would have to make peace. The ultimate solution? Drop off service. I have a wonderful Lavanderia near my house where Roberto and Lupita make my laundry feel and smell like a trip to Heaven in one day. I leave a load with them before work and return to pick up fluffy, folded sheets and clothes. Although I still wash a few of my bikinis and chonies at home by hand, nothing beats my Lavanderia. ¡Muy suave!
Street Signs. When I began teaching in México, I asked my students to write down a few facts about themselves. I was surprised (and entertained) to find some did not know their own direccíon, and instead wrote “Two blocks from the Tortilleria.” More and more I find people know their way here by places they recognize, businesses and houses. Street signs are hard to find at times, so people just remember where they were last or identify locations by buildings. I give up on actual addresses, but that doesn’t mean I give up on asking how to find some place. As long as “turn left at the Oxxo” means the next one I see, I should be able to find my way there. I hope.
Contracts. As an American, I learned that deals – monetary, time-sensitive, job-related – require a contract signed by both parties, sometimes notarized by someone for $20, and approved by a “signature” (often a garbled stamp in blue). When I moved to México, this all changed. Quickly. Business in México is legit in many ways, but where paper isn’t effective, honor is. Your word is impeccable. Say you will pay an amount and it is expected. Don’t pay it and it is bad. As for me, I have secured apartments and received medical care, both without a contract, just my word and theirs. (Of course in some cases, you may want a contract, like when a FM3 is involved…) Recalling deals soured in the US, I wonder how many signers of contracts even meant their word at all? OK, México, here’s a contract for us: keep making my life great, and I’ll stay here, happy with you. Deal.
Read about my volunteer work with Que?Pasa Bar and Grill’s La Brigada de La Basura, cleaning up Puerto Vallarta and beautifying El Rio Cuale with some of the best kids in México, and also with Farm Sanctuary, working with rescued farm animals in Orland, CA.
Volunteering is the best, a reward for work that can’t be paid in dollars, just happiness and love. Give of yourself and receive double in return!