Guayaquil Me Now

Two perks of being a teacher in South America are vacation time and easy travel options. For me, this meant 3 weeks to explore and several inexpensive airlines to choose from. Based on my slim volunteer budget, I elected to go to two countries: Ecuador, which has recently piqued my interest, and Perú, which I have dreamed of visiting for years.


Fun Guayaquil font created by

Stepping off the AeroGal plane in Guayaquil, I arrived to a climate similar to Barranquilla: hot, sticky days and breezy, balmy nights. A short taxi ride took me to the 3rd-floor-up Re Bed and Breakfast, where co-owner Fede greeted me warmly, mixing Spanish and English, describing the Centro district as “totally walkable,” pointing out places of interest on a map. I couldn’t wait to get started on my 5 day visit to this river-bordered town, officially named Santiago de Guayaquil, which resembles a hybrid of an Inca-influenced tapestry and a Méxican fishing pueblo.


The view from Re Bed and Breakfast ~ Fede ordered fireworks! Just kidding.

 Re Bed + Breakfast  and El Centro

My first instinct when traveling is to find a local supermarket. Fede from Re suggested a small supermercado nearby, and while the downtown streets were dark at 7:00 pm, they were still busy with people and felt relatively safe. Once inside, I was fascinated with the store’s selection of traditional Ecuadorian foods and brands, all at very low prices in US dollars. Twenty-seven cents for a bag of chifles (plantain chips). Two dollars for a stack of large, fresh flour tortillas. A dollar for several Kolosso chocolates.  I returned with my goods and cooked a delicious meal for one in their spacious, clean kitchen.


Some of the bounty after Frida and I went shopping

After a restful night in a cozy bed, I woke to a full breakfast of eggs, toast, fresh juice and coffee served with a warm smile by Hector. As with my time in Bogotá, I planned my days around the World Cup 2014 schedule, returning each afternoon to Re, where I enjoyed watching games on their large, flat-screen TV with Ana, Fede and a few other guests.


A perfect little breakfast. ¡Gracias, Re Bed and Breakfast!

For one of the Ecuador games, several of Ana’s friends came over and we celebrated the team’s 2-1 victory over Honduras, I grew to appreciate my stay at Re, which is more being at a friend’s house.


Watching the Colombia-Cote d’Iviore game with Colombians Sergio y Rosana

As the days melded together, I fell in love with Guayaquil. From my first day’s visit to the beautiful, nature-focused Parque Histórico to my final hours perusing the tiendas and souvenir shops of  the Artisanal Market, each moment in this pretty city delighted me more than the next. 


Beautiful aquamarine Unidad Educativa San José La Salle, Guayaquil’s college

[Please note all days are scattered around FIFA World Cup 2014 schedules. It should also be noted that on my current volunteer budget, I did not go to Galapagos Island, but stayed all 5 days in Guayaquil, and it was perfect.]

Museo Nahim Isaias, Catedral Metropolitana, Parque Seminario (a.k.a. Parque Bolivar Park or Iguanas Park)

Museo Nahim Isaias

This small museum is made of several rooms linked together on the 3rd floor of an office building. The current exhibition, presented in dimly-lit rooms, revolves around the theme of the 4 elements (Fire, Water, Air and Earth), which have interactive displays triggered by motion: as you enter each room, sounds and sensations of the elements begin. There is also a vast collection of gorgeous religious statues, as well as iconic paintings, all presented under spotlights.


Spooky-cool sculpture at Museo Nahim Isaias

Catedral Metropolitana, Parque Seminario 

Parque Seminario, also known as Parque Bolivar Park or Iguanas Park, is a grassy plaza across front the Catedral Metropolitana where dozens of huge, tame iguanas lounge on park benches and hang from overhead tree branches.


Look closely. I almost sat down here.

With a phobia of iguanas, I wasn’t sure this would be on my list of Things to Do in Guayaquil, but once in the park, I noticed if I stayed one or two steps ahead, the mighty green ones couldn’t get too close. After several squeamish minutes, I headed to the Catedral Metropolitana and thanked God for protecting me from the mini dinosaurs.


Catedral Metropolitana. No más iguanas. Gracias, a Díos.

Malécon 2000

The Malécon 2000 of Guyaquil,  is mostly just a large, wooden walkway along the Guayas River, with a few vendors and restaurants available.


Malécon 2000: Loving life in Guayaquil

Beginning at the Crystal Palace, and passing the beautiful Moorish clock tower, the Malécon provided a relaxing path to walk without traffic. At the end of the Malécon, near the Museo de Antropologia y Arte Contemporaneo (MAAC), with its collection of pottery, artifacts and a small modern art exhibit space, I stumbled upon a school-centered cultural event celebrating the native languages of Ecuador.


Moorish Clock tower and Guayaquil flag, flying proud!

Kichwa and Fiesta del Inti Raymi 2014


Dancers onstage at the Fiesta del Inti Raymi

A centuries-old celebration of the Sun, Guayaquil’s Fiesta del Inti Raymi (Fiesta del Sol, en Quichua) was colorful and inspiring, resplendent with traditional dance and costumes.


Loving the traditional colorful costumes of cultura Kichwa

Clearly the only blonde tourist inside the event, a man asked, “Are you an English teacher in Ecuador?” to which I responded, “I am a volunteer teacher in Colombia.” He quickly grabbed a chair for me and said, “Sit, and please, enjoy our presentation!”


Beautiful Ecuadorian girls and their booth for Dolores Cacuango

After watching several dances, I checked out a few booths promoting Kichwa, culture, and food, including one honoring Dolores Cacuango, a pioneer of the indigenous rights movement in Ecuador. It was refreshing and inspiring to feel the pride and joy of the friendly students and teachers of this great event.

Las Peñas, El Faro and the Chapel of Santa Ana

After my fill of Kichwa, I headed to Las Peñas, a colorful stair-ladened barrio with little houses and cobblestone streets. Winding my way through the multi-leveled neighborhood, I finally reached the infamous “444 Steps,” which felt more like 544, as the stairs taunted me “just one more!…”


Colorful houses along the climb: 400+ steps of Las Peñas

At the top of Las Peñas is a beautiful small Faro overlooking Guayaquil, as well as the picturesque tiny chapel of Santa Ana, with a spectacular view of the city.


Santa Ana Chapel and the colorful houses of Cerro Santa Ana


Visa from the top of Las Peñas: gorgeous Guayaquil!

Leaving Las Peñas, I made my way down to the impressive Iglesia Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Guayaquil’s first church, built in 1548.


The sky agrees with Iglesia Santo Domingo de Guzmán

Parque Historico - structures, screamers y más

A lifetime fan of park-museum combinations, I dedicated a full morning in Guayaquil to visiting Parque Historico, a large park across the Durán bridge, on the east side of Río Daule.


Horned Screamer, or Cancíon: Mr. Red Eyes!


Saíno de Collar, Collared Peccary: pig cousin to Perúvian mink hound?

In addition to a spacious, boardwalk-pathed walking zoo featuring multicolored birds, lazy sloths and exotic large rodents indigenous to South America, Parque Historico boasts a relocated colonial street front and beautiful marshland.


Colorful buildings of Parque Historico

The colonial “urban architecture” area includes several residential homes, commercial businesses and the breathtaking Corazón de Jesús Hospice.

Corazón de Jesús Hospice

Just beautiful. Inside the Corazón de Jesús Hospice

Playas General Villamil - a bouncy bus ride and tattoos on the beach

Guayaquil, like Barranquilla, is not directly on a beach: people think “coastal,” but the coast is about an hour’s bus ride away. Leaving early in the morning, I took the modern Metrovia from El Centro to the massive Terminal Terrestre de Guayaquil, where I purchased a ticket to Playas for about $2.20 US. After an hour on a bumpy highway, I arrived to a pueblito with a busy downtown boasting ceviche restaurants and heladarias.


Buenas tardes, Playas General Villamil

 Two girls selling suntan lotion out of a wagon pointed me in the direction of the beach, and within a few minutes I arrived to a large sandy coast scattered with cabanas, round seafood restaurants topped with palm fronds, and beach chairs for rent by the day. I bargained down my single seat from $5.00 US to $3.00 using hand signals with the vendor and sunk into a cozy chaise.


A Playas salvavida sporting his seleccíon gear for Ecuador

I spent most of my beach afternoon with a family of local police officers, who shared large bottles of Pilsener and stories of their daily lives in the village of Playas. As the day passed, I soaked in the Ecuador sun, eating fresh, warm chifles from vendors and watching Fernando get a tattoo right there on the beach. Heading out just before sunset, I enjoyed a savory, seafood-based casserole from a street side restaurant before catching another bouncy bus back to Guayaquil.


MMM This is Ecuador

Besos y Abrazos, Guayaquil

The day of my flight to Lima, Perú, I realized my Spanish still needs improvement when Ana woke me at 4:30 a.m. to tell me my taxi was waiting downstairs. I had asked for a 4:30 cab ride to the airport, but remembered she had asked me earlier, “¿mañana?” which meant in the morning, and I replied, “si, mañana” which (to me) meant tomorrow.


Posing with the piggy bank and beautiful Ana at Re Bed and Breakfast

After a brief apology to each other, Ana sent the taxi away and we both went back to sleep, waking the next day to laugh over my “taxi translation.” Riding in the (afternoon, correct) cab to the airport, I said a happy-sad goodbye to Guayaquil, understanding why the Ecuador Ministerio de Tourism boasts, “Ama la Vida,” (Love the Life). Living here, it’s probably the easiest thing to do.


Guayaquil Collage, June 2014 ©Kate Dana

Gold and Gooooal! in Bogotá

My summer vacation is starting in Bogotá, a city I always forget is so amazing until I am here. While my WorldTeach Practicum was completed in Bogotá, I spent most of my time on buses, and one afternoon high on the scenic vista of Monserrate.

Iglesia Amarillo

Colombia amarillo in beautiful Candelaria

On this adventure I chose to stay in La Candelaria at Masaya Hostel, sister hostel to the Santa Marta location. Just like the two cities, the hostels are incomparable, which will be noted in my upcoming HostelWorld review.


Masaya Hostel’s mama kitty loves my pashmina

After an unimpressive flight with VivaColombia, I arrived in Bogotá in the early afternoon, and headed off  to the Museo del Oro. I gladly paid the $3000 COP entry fee, and enjoyed seeing an impressive collection of gold pieces to dazzle even the most materialistic of bling-lovers.


Museo del Oro shiny gold from 1080 DC!

After an hour at the Museo del Oro, I headed over to the Botero Museo, which features an impressive collection by Fernando Botero, as well as select pieces by Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso and Max Beckmann. I was especially attracted to the exquisite display of a Salvador Dali sculpture, housed in a small niche and perfectly lit for such an eerie piece.


Busto restrospectivo de mujer by Salvador Dali

I returned to my hostel before nightfall, just in time to pass the Centro Cultral de Gabriel Garcia Marquez, created by the Fondo de Cultura Economica in Mexico and the Spanish Cultural Center, featuring a fantastic bookstore.


Gabo discusses his crossover to cinema at the Centro Cultral de Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The 2nd day in Bogotá was spent entirely dedicated to futbol and friends. Meeting Jordan and Ana early in the day, we headed out to Joshua Café Dubli – that’s right, an Irish bar for the Colombia-Greece game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.


Face painting with Jordan!

Surrounded by yellow jerseys and fans fueled on giant pints of lager, we basked in the glory of Colombia playing, and winning, their first World Cup match in 16 years.


Celebrating Colombia’s first World Cup 2014 victory

Buzzed on the excitement of Colombia’s victory, we stayed to watch Uruguay lose to Costa Rica, before going to El Inglés, a tiny but mighty pub, to watch the Ingleterra-Italy game.


Pints and coffee at El Inglés

Sadly, England lost in a tight game of 2-1, which was just as well, with the evening giving in to Ley Seca, when the entire country goes dry for the 2014 Presidential Election.


Inside the Senora del Ave Maria in La Candelaira

On Sunday, while most of Colombia spent the dry day voting in Manuel Santos for a 2nd term, Jordan and I perused the pedestrian-only streets blocked off for flea markets and vendors.


Guinea pig races in the street… all money on the green!

Coming from sweltering Barranquilla, unprepared for the chill of Bogotá, I picked up a much-needed pair of pants ($10000 COP), a sweater ($10000 COP) and thick colorful bufanda ($12000 COP).


Even the dogs in Colombia have World Cup fever

As I plan the afternoon today watching the US-Ghana game with some WorldTeach campeneros, and tomorrow my beloved Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in the Mexico-Brazil game, I can’t think of a better place to be for the 2014 World Cup than Colombia… except tomorrow my plane leaves for Ecuador.

The Price of Being a Gringa

“If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can’t buy.”
- Proverb


Colombian Pesos – my 2 favorites coins: $500 and $1000. Shiny, beautiful!

June marks six months as a WorldTeach volunteer in Barranquilla, Atlántico  and I’m finally familiar with the bliss and the burn of being in this life-altering world experience. The bliss is in the work I do: I love my students, I’m grateful for every day with them (even when they make me crazy), I adore my school and I’m honored to be working with the Alcaldia of Barranquilla. The burn is in my pocket: my challenge with personal finances that, no matter how I carefully manage them lately, somehow seem to flow as fast as the arroyos when it rains.

No matter what cultural benefits, redeemable qualities or warm-and-fuzzy, heart shaped words you use to describe it, volunteer means the same thing in every language: work for free.

vol·un·teer [vol-uhn-teernoun

1. a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking.
2. a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.


Thanks Mom! And everyone who supported my journey to Colombia

I prepared for this journey about six months in advance by selling all my possessions and receiving generous donations from family and friends. I still remain grateful for the support of so many people who helped me reach my goal of $5,500 for 2014. While WorldTeach provides volunteers with a monthly stipend of around $250 US, it is based on the exchange rate at time of payment, which means it often fluctuates.

(That’s right, I’m living off $250 US a month. Think about that for a minute while you sip your third $5.00 Starbucks coffee of the week…)

These days, my personal entertainment and dining options lead to creative stretching of the Colombian peso that would make Policarpa Salavarrieta blush.

She has such a fascinating history... a spy, seamstress y más!

She has such a fascinating history… a spy, seamstress y más!

One thing I occasionally cannot avoid, no matter how I try, is the Gringo Price (GP). Travelers and locals alike will all attest to this phenomenon, when the price suddenly increases because you are a gringo/a.

After living in México for a year, I learned a few ways to avoid the GP, including

1. being with a local at the time of purchase and having them pay or negotiate the price for you
2. making sure the shop owner knows you as a local by frequenting their store and getting to know them
3. stating clearly, “soy gringa, pero soy local, sí tu vendeme del precio normal o me voy a comprar de un otro mercado.”

Usually I went with option 2.


Tienda Buenos Aires in Barrio San Jose: nice people and no GP for me.

“The art of living easily as to money is to pitch your scale of living one degree below your means.”
- Sir Henry Taylor

Still, Colombia has its share of GP’s and ways to experience them. Already, I have stories worth remembering long after I leave. While many have ended by spending more than budgeted, some have just been too hilarious (and obviously scam-tastic) to resist.  As I work on a way to express these stranger-than-fiction recollections (through a book or web page), their clever subtitles include:

- Chorizo is not Carne
- Parque Price of a View
Next Vendor Over
Circle the Block
¡Dame tu Plata!
-  Barco Barato
You Asked for It
-  No Me Gusta Fotocopias


One thing I will gladly pay the GP for: cocadas on the beach! Addictive! Photo: ColombiaFestiva

June has begun and my budget finally has a solid presence, with the necessary purchase of the month being a new pair of shoes. That’s necessary as in need. Not want. Not “Don’t match my purse” or “would look cute on Saturday night” need, but really, truly need, as in I only have three other pairs: sad sandals, kitten heels and all-purpose tennis shoes. Have you ever needed and had to wait to buy a pair of shoes? It’s a weird feeling after many years of work with pay, and being able to buy what I want as well as need.


Whatcha think? Too practical? Photo:

“Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.”
- James W. Frick

Recently I was asked what I thought my true purpose was in being here. While this loaded question remains unanswered, one thing I know is I am learning more than just teaching English and how to not get lost on the bus. I’m learning value, gratitude, generosity and humility, as well as how to live within my means. I’ve become skilled at prioritizing and tracking where my money comes from and where it really goes; if that’s not a life-altering world experience, I don’t know what is. As I prepare for summer break, traveling to Ecuador and Perú, two things are constant in my mind: how to have the best time possible spending the least amount of money, and – most importantly – how to avoid paying the Gringa Price.


FCB coin purse and a budget book says, “Mucho Dinero Para Me” Bet on it!

Casas, Cocadas y Colaboración

My last post, written during Semana Santa 2014 in Santa Marta, raised a few questions from readers regarding my current happiness and well-being in Colombia. The truth is, I have been hanging on by a yellow, blue and red thread to my new Costeño life in Barranquilla, Atlántico. Until last week, I was trying without much success to adapt to my housing placement. I used many different approaches to existing in someone else’s home; one after another, they fell as flat as a day-old areapa. I even tried not trying, which was the hardest of all.


Created in February… often, prayer takes time!

Finally, I surrendered and sent a request to the Universe to find another place to call home. From Sacramento to México, when my living situation began to tank, I did this and it worked. Again, I was successful, only this time, it seemed to take as long as the check-out lines in Olimpica on a Saturday afternoon – about a month and a half.


note the claws coming out, slowly…

I am grateful to now be in a wonderful home in barrio Alboraya near La Ocho. My new room is spacious and clean, with a small private bathroom. There’s a house cat, who right now hisses at me when I say “hola, gatita,” but we will be friends before long. I know well that the place we call home is truly worth our attention, and I have such gratitude for this opportunity to finally appreciate La Arenosa, where I prayed to be placed as a volunteer.


In preparation for our upcoming mid-service weekend, our WorldTeach assistant field director asked us to submit two photos: something we love about Colombia and something that drives us nuts. Surprisingly, my “love” list greatly outnumbers the “nuts,” although the nuts is definitely keeping up at times.

Colombia Makes Me Nuts


Shiny n sweaty at La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino

Barranquilla is hot. During a weekend trip to Cartagena, I laughed listening to Suisse backpackers whine incessantly about their “litres of sweat” and “massive clouds of humidity.”  I sympathized with them because it’s true. I sweat a lot here, more than post places I’ve ever lived, including Charleston and México. My clothes are often soaked through after 10 minutes outside, and air conditioning is like a magical invention that deserves celebration. I escape the heat in shopping malls and grocery stores “stealing” their A/C, but it’s a temporary thrill. Some afternoons I simply pass out from the heat, which is always fun, because I wake up not knowing what day or time it is.


Apes in Malambo. It could happen for me.

I loathe the bus. Apart from a few beautiful, colorful buses with regular schedules, bling decor and friendly drivers, the buses in Barranquilla leave me wanting more (like a motorcycle). Several times I have boarded a giant, crowded bus only to discover I am going in the wrong direction or the bus has a funky route that won’t put me anywhere near my desired location. I frequent the Barranquilla transit site so often, I’ve memorized the top menu bar. One of my goals for the year is to leave without hating the bus system here… or at least managing to get someplace in a record-breaking time, meaning 45 minutes or less.


If a bird cat-calls you, is it a bird-call? This flirty one did!

Machismo Knows no Bounds. While I am saving the savory (and sour) stories of harassment for a book I may write after leaving Colombia, I can say for now cat calling seems second-nature in Colombia. I’ve watched men eyeball a girl while their wife is walking directly in front of them. I can barely make it down a city block without at least one “ssst ssst” in my general direction, and I’m still unclear if it means “look over here,” or “I’m looking at you,” or nothing. Regardless, hissing seems like lazy flirting.


“Regalame tu numero, mi cielo” jaja

Recently, as I passed by two boys who looked about 4 years old, one called out, “Linda mona reina,” which translates to “pretty white (girl) queen.”  I started laughing hysterically at them. The boys covered their mouths and giggled to each other. We all stood there cracking up at their preschool-level flirtations until their mom yanked them away by their tiny arms. With their free arms, they waved wildly, yelling, “ah-dee-ooos monnn-ahh!” Too much.


Mama and her pup, on my walk to work in barrio Cevillar.

The Animals Make Me Sad. Every day I encounter (or at best, observe) hungry skinny dogs, limping dogs with legs run over in traffic, mama dogs with their puppy-feeding breasts nearly dragging the ground, and packs of dogs who dig through trash, fighting each other for scraps of rotten food. I see tired, over-worked burros pulling carts with drivers, running through rush hour traffic.


Shiny and sweaty again, this time with a hot horse

I see horses surrounded by huge buses, loud horns and dangerous mototaxis. The humanitarian in me wants to pet and feed them all, and free them from their sad lives, but the street-smart traveller in me remains at a cool distance. Still, I am unsure of how to cure my sadness for the animals.


First Colombian dog bite! Pet dog, all shots up to date.

Colombia is Like No Other Place I’ve Loved 


Champeta. This island-original music, with roots in salsa  jíbaro and reggae, is generally played at full volume through big loudspeakers known locally as “picós,” from the English word “pick-up.” The beat and style of Champeta has dug so deeply into me that I find myself recognizing Kevin Florez songs within the first three notes. 


Artists like Karly Way, Young F and Mr. Black are among the “crew” groomed for success with the help of  promoters and deejays in Colombia, including famous Cartagenero ‘El Rey De Rocha’ Noraldo Iriarte, better known by his followers as “Chawala,” whose name is frequently heard in Champeta songs. If you like Reggaeton, think of your favorite Reggaeton song. Now add a spicier beat, lyrics in Costeño slang, and horns, keyboards or accordion. This is only the beginning of the infectious groove called Champeta.


Papas con queso: giant tater tot of love

Coconut Treats and other Colombian Delights. Finally, I am beginning to love the food here. After four months without much of an appetite, a friend’s mom taught me to make the simple-yet-satisfying arepas con huevos, piquing my curiosity in Colombian cuisine. In Cartagena I enjoyed a giant ball of potato with cheese in the center, and went back to the same place twice in one day for empanadas con champiñones with a side of steamed yuca.


Oh Cocadas, at 600 pesos each, how I love thee

I am addicted to cocadas, the handmade coconut-sugar patties sold on the street. Sometimes called chancacas or panelitas, these treats come in variations such as guayaba (guava), arequipe (caramel) and panela (unrefined whole cane sugar). Colombia rules with its fresh fruit juices and tangy limonada – no corn syrup here – and while I’m still a devout vegetarian (and not close to trying meat like butifarra), I am happily accepting many new dishes with unbiased taste buds.


with my awesome co-teacher Maria and some of our 5th graders

Colegio Hogar Mariano. My school ranks among my most happiest and grateful things about being in Colombia. In addition to the staff and my co-teachers, 400 brilliant, active 4th and 5th girls are helping me to understand the culture, history and daily routines of this country, as well as how things are done.


My students have enlightened me to things like why people feel entitled to your food (because they would give your theirs, if they had some), what makes someone a good dancer (the rhythm, then the foot moves) and, my favorite, why they can’t sit through an entire class (we don’t want to miss anything in other parts of the room). I’m not 100% convinced of that last one.


As I mark the start of my 5th month in Colombia, I am glad I decided to pursue the changes that were needed. I am inspired by the opportunity to contribute where I can, and to know when enough is enough with where I am living each day. When we finally recognize the difference between what we have and what we deserve, often the world around us will begin to collaborate. Now, if I can learn to dance Champeta…


“Teacher, bailar!” Trying my best at Champeta. The girls told me try harder. Photo: Nazly Beleño


Semana Santa 2014: Planificación para Planificar

sunset Santa Marta

Sunset en el centro, Santa Marta, Magdalena Colombia

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.”


Making new friends near balneario de Santa Veronica, Atlantico

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.

Sombrero Vueltiao

Can’t help but smile when your sombrero is this big

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.

Masaya roof view

ahhh the view in Santa Marta from the roof of Masaya

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.

Bolivar Distillery

La Quinta de San Pedro – looks a lot like Charleston

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.


One of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s typewriters at el Museo del Caribe

Famed Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez depicted a fictional version of the massacre in his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. [Sadly, and coincidentally, Marquez died this week.]  

Masaya Piso

The spectacular tile floors of Masaya

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.


Rolando Enrique Sanchez and his blue guitar. Love.

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.


Nicolas impersonates Leo Messi. ¡Coco loco!

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.


With Willington and his barco de coco loco – irresistible!

Another day I ventured out to Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrinohacienda built in the 17th century that once produced rumhoney and panela, and is now a museum and historical landmark, best known as the death place of Simón Bolívar (December 17, 1830).


one of many statues on the grounds of Quinta de San Pedro

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).


Simon Bolivar was small but mighty. Kid shown for scale.

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. 


One of dozens. May as well be a Kimono dragon

The current contemporary show, Noviembre 1985, features the work of East Bay artist Josefina Jacquin, in a Warhol-esque tribute to her brother, Alfonso, a Colombian guerrilla who disappeared in 1985. 


Enrique Grau’s El Sonámbulo de las Mariamulatas

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.


Pablo Escobar by Josefina Jacquin

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 two fellow travelers, 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.


At the Minca waterfall with beautiful Marialejandra from Venezuela

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.


3D gilded gold inside the catedral de Santa Marta

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.


My little table and the giant menu boards at Café Bonzai

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.


¡Gallo coqueto! I loved how persistent he was

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.


Buenos Dias, Taganga

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.

Planes, Plazas y Pasacaballos

Cartagena Architecture

Cartagena with its beautiful Colonial Gold

And when all’s been said and done
It’s the things that are given not won
Are the things that you earned

-”See the World” by Gomez

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.

Hostel courtyard

The courtyard at El Viajero Hostel

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.


early morning Boca Grande with Stephano and Soledad

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.

Perros en la playa

Doggone, it’s Cartagena: Perros en la playa

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.


Because Blanca loves the Morena

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.


Catalina India, KD and Stephano

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.

Deborah and KD

Smile Deborah! It’s lard you can love

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…


Hey you kids, get off my plaza!

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.

KD-Plaza de Los Coches

Plaza de Los Coches: seeing is… believing that I’ll be back!

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).


With Blas Blanco in Plaza de Los Coches. ¡Bacano!

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)


Sonrisas y las brisas en Plaza de Santa Teresa

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)


Orgulloso en Cartagena, Bolivar

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.


Café 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.


¡PASACABALLOS! My first mate! with Federico, Silvio, Maggie, Lucia and Silvia.

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.


Ferry-catcher selfie with Federico, Silvio, Silvia, Lucia, Maggie and Gonzalo

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.


The $50000 COP boat I’m so glad we didn’t catch

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.


Federico and Gon… with a family of photo bombers. Playa Blanca, Bolivar Colombia

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.


Amigos en la playa – Playa Blanca, Bolivar Colombia

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.


Yep, it’s me in my swimsuit. Just smile!

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.


Obligatory sunset photo “Pinterest!”

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)


Hermes to the rescue! Catching the ferry from Playa Blanca

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 Huracán


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.


With Shauna, our neighbor Ramón (in orange) and Cumbiamba La Guapachosa

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.


Willy and his flauta – sonrisas!

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.


Afortunamente, this falda fit just fine! With Cumbiamba La Guapachosa

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.)


Glowing red and excited for Carnaval.

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.


Espuma happens. With Rose Flynn.

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.

No pockets, no problem. Balance!

No pockets, no problem. Balance!

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.

His smile was irresistible, giggling as he watched the parade

His smile was irresistible, giggling as he watched the parade

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.


Espuma. Jésus. La Troja. Estoy aqui.

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.

Bailar en bikini! Mujeres y hombres

Bailar en bikini! Mujeres y hombres

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!

I met Ronal on Saturday and we reunited on Monday. Carnaval hurricane!

Ronal and I met on Saturday and reunited on Monday. Carnaval hurricane!

Pretty Candy Pinch


COLombia COLlage, February 2014

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


yeah, something like THIS, on a good day!

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.


Crowd shot at the Canchar de Futbol de Cevillar

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.


Breaking it down:  Jan Carlos, me, Eddy and Shauna

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.


Gorgeous vocalist and great live music

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.


Gorgeous vocalist. Also, the trombone player was a nut!

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).


Now, these are real, beautiful people!

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.”


Me with the Ceviche man at PradoMar. Candy pinch, coming up!

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 one of my pretty students after the Cancha de Futbol de Cevillar

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.


Sorry Jerry! Now get lost with your I am Thin self.

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…

Love Thy Neighbor(hood)


Smiling chicas, ready for Pre-Carnaval

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.


Safe enough for… pizza

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 new friend, San Nicolas and me

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.


Streets of Centro – loco y más

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.


mmm enjoying a Pony Malta in Plaza San Nicolas

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.


Obligatory tourist shot of the iglesia

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.


Narrow sidewalks, a la orden, a la orden

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.


Shauna, cute birds and friendly vendor. He smiled after this!

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.


Museo del Caribe!

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.


With Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s typewriter: ¡Que chevére!

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.


Rafael and the wall of Costeño slang at Museo del Caribe

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.


Hut one, hut two… after this, home!

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.

Escuela, Finca, Playa … It Is What It Is

bobotekSeveral 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.


Welcome to my cute school… with values!

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.


Tienda in the school… with parking, too

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.


A serious photo of my students – at times they are silly, too

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.


Catching a breeze in the mango trees

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.


Cuddling kittens and puppies, Finca-style

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.


Jaime helps me get a grip. Leche fresca, anyone?

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.


He holds the don-key to my heart

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.


Shauna and Edward enjoying savory sancocho

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.


Black sand, salty surf, and some flips by the boat

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.


Muy rica, platillo de pescado

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.


¡Bailar con tus vecinos! Bailllllarrrr

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.


Buenas noches, Colombia, hasta manaña por más

El Presidente y Pasar a la Ciudades


Club Red! With Becky, Jena and WT Field Director Jessica in Bogotá

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).


Feeling guarded outside Casa de Nariño

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.

¿De donde eres?

President Santos asked, ¿De donde eres? WorldTeach volunteer Sarah Vogelman (right), making eye contact!

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.

Club Med after meeting El Presidente

Kirsten, Aaron and Melissa: Club Med after meeting El Presidente

Roomies! Love

With my amazing (and beautiful!) roommates from Finca Santa Cruz, Emily and Eula.


¡WorldTeach Colombia 2014 Voluntarios!

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.


For some, life begins and ends at La Tienda!

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.


Laundry time! Feels like I’m back in Tlaquepaque, México. I got this.

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.


Go for the Gold! Sidewalk.

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.


Oscar and his caballo at la finca. ¡Que Chevére!

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!

Catedral de Sal y un Secreto Maravilloso

Katie and Jena demonstrate sausage-eating at the asado girls' table

Katie and Jena demonstrate sausage-eating at the asado girls’ table

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.


Driving into Zipaquirá

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.


La Plaza en centro Zipaquirá

 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.


Emily en la plaza, Zipaquirá

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.


KD en la plaza, Zipaquirá

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.


Melissa, Emily, Kirsten and Becky outside Catedral

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.


Inside Catedral de Sal, Zipaquirá

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.


One of many crosses inside Catedral de Sal, Zipaquirá

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.


KD and the giant cross inside Catedral de Sal, Zipaquirá

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.


Melissa and her novio outside Catedral de Sal, Zipaquirá

Street Meat, Practicum and Stealing Our Eyes


Mazorca en Plaza Bolivar!

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.


Teleferico high above Bogota

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.


Justin, Frank, Becky and Melissa high above Bogota

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.


Lllama ride while waiting for the Funicular, anyone?

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.”


With my beautiful friend Shauna on Monserrate

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.


Justin and his beautiful Colombiana misteriosa

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.


Teleferico high over the city

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.


Field Directors know, Practicum is harrrrdd :)

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.


Outside Chicala, ready for action!

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.


The kids love Mr. Ashley!

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.


With my 4th grade Practicum class

As orientation comes to an end, our Colombia 2014 group remains alive and well, as we prepare for our prospective placements as WorldTeach volunteers.


Lesson plans and futbol, definitely where it´s at

Teacher Camp 2014 semana dos


One week in Colombia and I already have a novio. Mooo!

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.


WorldTeach Colombia 2014 Ladies Group

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.


Alejandro, Jeff, Ashley and Cody prep for the US Embassy

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.


Dante charms us all each morning at Desayuna

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.


with Shauna, Becky, Ashley and Frank, Barranquilla crew 2014

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.


Costeños crew 2014 in Bogota

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.


Shauna recites in our Spanish class

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


Shauna, Britney and Jordan waiting for the bus to Cota

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!

Welcome to Teacher Camp 2014


Oh Christmas Tree!

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.


Red cabbage, spaetzle noodles, potato salad and potato pancakes!

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.


With my friend Marcos in the South Beach Marina

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.


Piper Heidsieck with my new Miami amigo, Rybo

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.


Touchdown! But not really our plane

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.


Mi primera cena en Colombia, muy rica!

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!


Alejandro instigates our first taste of Aguardiente!

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.


Joe and Brittney balance the wire

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.


Any time we are fed, we are happy!

SpanishFriday: Papa a la Huancai­na

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! 

Click here to translate this entire blog post

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.

Causa de Peru

mmm causa y cerveza de Perú

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!


mmm yo preparé: Papa a la Huancai­na en mi platillo de Andy Warhol!

Santacon y Más: Vivir la Buena Vida

Barranquilla desktop

I’ve had this on my desktop for months. St. Nicholas Square, Barranquilla

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.

Barranquilla prayer

My prayer, posted months earlier for daily review and Visioning®

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.

Delta Ride

CA-160 along the American River (only an hour off schedule)

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)


Break time: Guadalajara Fruit Bar and the Bajaj, Fairfield CA

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.


Say what? Santa Pyramid with Penguin topper in Union Square

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.

Tree trimming

They told me to look for the tree branch. Ha ha, very funny.

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?

Duboce Park Snowballs

Duboce park snowballs with Jerry! Note my Colombian and Méxican flags

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

Chandeliers, gold guild and tree branches!

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.

Blue Danube Journals

Blue Danube Journals and the coffee counter reflection

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.

Nic Cage pillow

Take that, Randy Pillowface Off McDonough!

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).

Gracias Madre

Claudia (top right) and her Gracias Madre compañeros!

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.

Sacto Crafty!

Original Sac Craft Mafia: Angelica, Lauren, Lorraine, KD and Amy

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)

SpanishFriday: Gracias por Mariposas

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.

Click here to translate this entire blog post


¡Orale! un otra venta en mi tienda de Etsy

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.

El Proyecto Mariposa

El Proyecto Mariposa - enviar para más información

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.

Aseguren Basta

Aseguren Basta ©2012 Kate Dana 9×12″ collage on paper

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!

Republica Dominicana 2012

Fuera de la catedral más antigua de América, Santo Domingo 2012

Enough with the Stuff (Shift Happens)

“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.

Full Etsy Store

Ah yes, when my Etsy store was full…

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.

Fiestaware Police

Honestly, this is what you do all day, Patricia?

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.

Click to shop! And follow me on Twitter, too.

Click to shop! And follow me on Twitter, too.

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.

Rica Vida on Ebay

1 item remains in my ebay store but I’m not even sure how to sell it to you.

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.

Fan of the radio

Aqua blue and baby pink. Great things now in the hands of equally great friends.

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

Sweet Potatoes: A Delicious Mash of the South

Sweet Potatoes: A Delicious Mash of the South, thanks Dewane!

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!)

Zalatitan cocina

Casa Zalatitan – en la cocina – Hey, Karen, what’s in that lower cabinet?

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!”

Stop Dreaming. Start doing!

No one can do it but you. Make the change! Image courtesy of Just One Way Ticket

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.

Isla Baru, Colombia

Isla Baru near Cartagena de Indias, Colombia – WOW

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.

Thrift Town

Dangerously close to where I’m living en el campo

Fiverr, GoOverseas and Amen

Fiverr® cover

Fiverr® can’t decide if I can keep this cover photo or not. But I like it!

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 campaign and entered an Intership/Volunteer Scholarship contest at 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 first campaign

My premiere gig with – order a postcard from Colombia today!

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!

Whoops! Looks like Fiverr® still thinks I live in México.

My entry

In addition to creating my first Fiverr® campaign, I entered a competition on 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.

Hungry for pupusa de Colombia?

Holding my pupusa shaped like Colombia… mmm tasty!

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.

Why Volunteer

I also Tweeted this! Some of the other responses are great.

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)

GoGo Girl Experiment

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.

WorldTeach Fundraising Page

WorldTeach Fundraising Page. Thank you everyone for your generous donations!

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. 


Hooray, it’s my IndieGoGo page featuring my students from Guadalajara.

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 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.


A call from THIS amazing woman made my week. And it’s only Monday!

… 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.) profile page

My page. Are you sick of this photo yet? Good, it’s also on my new business cards, yay!

In addition to putting the final touches on an insider’s guide I’m writing about Puerto Vallarta (coming soon on!), 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. 

Milagros sólo

“Miracles only happen if you believe in miracles.”

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. 

SpanishFriday: 6 semanas y Tejuino siempre

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 Siempre!

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.

tejuino con nieve

Rico Tejuino! Foto cortesía de Flickr usar Experience Tequila

leer una receta para Tejuino tradicional aquí, cortesía de

Para mi, Tejuino es perfecto con un poco hielo, un poca salsa, mucho de Tajin, y limón fresca. Mi primero taza de Tejuino fue en Lago Chapala con mi amigo Tapatio, Lino.

tejuino primero

Mi primero tejuino en Lago Chapala, amor en primera vista! noviembre 2012

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.

tejuino tonola

Tejuino en Tonóla, cerca Guadalajara mmm rico! Foto de Lino, diciembre 2012

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.

Allison en Vallarta

Mi amiga Allison con mi amigo favorito de Tejuino en Puerto Vallarta, abril 2013

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!

SpanishFriday: Banderas Brillantes

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.


Click here to translate this entire blog post

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.


Free app HelloTalk: connect with others and learn a language

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.

DK Eyewitness Flags

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.

Venezuela, Colombia y Bolivia

Banderas de Venezuela, Colombia y Bolivia

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.

Bahia de Banderas

Bahia de Banderas, con mi bandera favorita: México 2011

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.

Latin Flags fabric

¿Qué bandera de país es tu favorita, y porque? Dejame un comment. ¡Gracias!

Militar Mixta, Gracias a Todos

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.

Fighting Medinas

The Fighting Medinas: Puerto Rican family of military service, circa 1943

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.


Garcia recieves the Medal of Honor from United States President Truman, 1945

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.

Poppy remembrance

My brother-in-law Gene always buys the poppy in remembrance of Veteran’s Day

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.


Dinner with mi amigo Marino in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco México

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.

con los chicos de la brigada

Con los chicos de La Brigada de la Basura, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco MX

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. 

SpanishFriday: Tortas Cubanas

¡Yo preparo por Miami!

Kool Korner Sign
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.

Ildefonso Ramirez con torta

Ildefonso Ramirez con torta. Foto cortesía de Kool Korner Sandwiches

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.

el original Kool Korner de Home Park

el original Kool Korner de Home Park

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.

Kool Korner Torta

foto cortesía de Dan, bhamsandwich en Flickr

Ahora yo comprende Ildefonso mudar a Birmingham, Alabama, y tiene una restaurante “Kool Korner Sandwiches.” Espero las tortas son mismo, pero es diferente sin la tienda pequeña de mi barrio.

menu de Kool Korner

Foto cortesía de Dan Holloway y

Soy muy entusiástica por comer la tortas de Miami en diciembre, y ya tengo una lista por lugares de visitando!

Miami, Mariachis and Midtown

¡Es Miami!

Photo by Steve Shook, Shook Photos

Photo by Steve Shook, Shook Photos

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.

GE Clock Radio

I’ve had this pink baby for 20 years. That’s a lot of morning time hitting snooze!

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).

Rotary phone and Gossip Bench

Aunt Kathryn’s rotary phone and Catherine’s “gossip bench.” Sold separately!

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.

Etsy Sale

I slashed prices up to 50% in my Etsy store!

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.


With the Basilica de Guadalajara in back! Gracias, AeroMéxico. ¡Contigo!

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!

Mariachi Alas de México y Manuel de Mariachi Los Gallos

Mariachi Alas de México y Miguel de Mariachi Los Gallos

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.

Come visit HelloXOXO

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.

SpanishFriday: Ofrendas para Siempre

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.

Altar de El Pantéon de Sacramento

Altar de El Pantéon de Sacramento, 2011

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.

(Translate this page)

Altar de mi sotano

Altar de mi apartamento sotanó en Midtown Sacramento, 2010

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

Altar de Casa Zalatitan

Altar de Casa Zalatitan en Tlaquepaque, Jalisco México 2012

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.

Altar de Puerto Vallarta

Altar de mi casa de los sueños, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco México 2012

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.

Altar en la casita

Altar en la casita ahorita, Sacramento 2013

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.

SpanishFriday: Refranes de Amor y La Vida

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.

** All mixed-media artwork included in this post is for sale and will benefit my volunteering in 2014. Contact me to find out more.**

Mejor Solo

Mejor Solo – Mixed media on paper 5×5 inches ©2012 Kate Dana

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

Sin Saber – Mixed media on paper 5×5 inches ©2012 Kate Dana

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 – Mixed media on paper 5×5 inches ©2012 Kate Dana

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

Que Significa – Mixed media on paper 5×5 inches ©2012 Kate Dana

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.

Clearing Clutter Selling Spree

“When you have cleared all of your clutter, you can be of greater service to those around you.” - Michael B. Kitson

Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui

One of my all-time favorite books by Karen Kingston

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

Red Hen

This lovely Little Red Hen lives next door to my current residence

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, 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.

Cosas si vende

Someone asked, “Do you have a store?” What a compliment! Wait, doesn’t everyone have pink furniture?

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?

Cosas con Jessica

Selling my stuff with vibrant Jessica Pollock, who volunteers with Happy Tails Pet Sanctuary

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!

SpanishFriday: Agradecimiento Otra Vez

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.

Sparrow's Nest

hermoso collar de The Sparrow’s Nest Studio

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.

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

Sonrisa en mi vida hermosa, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

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.

mesa de teléfono

Antiquo mesa de teléfono. ¡Si, comprar aquí!

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.

WorldTeach Donation Page

¡mi primera donación! está empezando

4. Gracias por la oportunidad con WorldTeach, para mi en servicio de los otras, y especialmente por enseñar.

me encanta enseñando

Gracias por los oportunidades. ¡Me encanta enseñando!

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.

SpanishFriday: Ninguna Cara es Seguro

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!

la primera collage - pintura y papel

la primera collage – pintura y papel

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.

Tres mujeres de Dia de los Muertos

Tres mujeres de Dia de los Muertos

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!

¿Miedo o chulo? ¡No se!

Tu puede hace una carta por un amiga a poner en correo electrónico o correo postal. ¡Tiene divertido!

Pop Up Labs + a GOOD Fin de Semana

Mari muertos

Marí from Spanglish Arte, Local Art for the Masses stands beside a calavera gigante

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.

Amar lesson

Sol Collective’s instructor Amar attentively teaches lab participants

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.

Diana Flores

Diana smiles with her lovely flores!

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!

Papel Mari y KD

!Que chevére! Marí de Spanglish Arte y mi con papel picado. Yes, we made it!

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.


Does wearing a GODD t-shirt count as dressing up?

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.

Lorraine from Rain's Embellishments

Savvy business woman and artista buena Lorraine

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.

Good with Just

Swanky gold cuff and colorful wallets from Just.

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.

Earl prints

Earl prints mini posters with KingsTribe – D.I.Y. is F.U.N.

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.

Chico CoV

Volunteering in México, wearing my City of Vain American Nightmare shirt

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)

mmm molettes!

mmm molettes! an easy Méxican favorite with bread and beans

SpanishFriday: la Musica de Colombia

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!


Las bonitas, mujeres de la troupe danza Colombia Viva!

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!


¡Mira, Juan Luis! Mucho talento = muchos Premios de Grammy

Want to know more about my dream of volunteer teaching with WorldTeach in Colombia 2014 and how you can help support me? Read more on my Pagina de Apoyo, or join my Facebook page.

Sacramento Latin Music and Arts Festival: Truly Beautiful Traditional Dance

Festival Swag

Vendor swag y más from the 2013 Sacramento Latin Music and Arts Festival

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.

2 Accordions

¡Dos acordeones! Because uno just isn’t enough.

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 favoritaSantuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, who offered tasty elote, agua fresca, tacos y tamal.

Viva Colombia and KD

OK, the real reason I’m at the Festival: beautiful Colombian dancers!

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.

Guabina begins

The guabina begins

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.


Dos bailarinas de vallenato

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.


Carnaval dancers in front of the Latino 97.9 booth

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.

Grita Carnaval

“¡Gritar para el carnaval!”

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.

cumbiamba tradicíonal

cumbiamba tradicíonal

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.

la mujer bonita de cumbiamba tradicíonal

la mujer bonita de cumbiamba tradicíonal

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!

Everyone dances!

¡Todo el mundo baila! / Everyone dances!

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!”

Kate Dana y Colombian Dancers

Maybe after teaching, I’ll go into traditional dancing…

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!

Want to know more about my dream of volunteer teaching with WorldTeach in Colombia 2014 and how you can help support me? Read more on my Pagina de Apoyo, or join my Facebook page

SpanishFriday: ¡Mi tienda de Etsy!


This week’s Spanish Friday is about my Etsy store, which I opened this week, creating and selling art to fund my next adventure: volunteer teaching in Colombia, South America.



¡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.

from a FB post Infinite Honey

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!

SpanishFriday: ¡Perú y Spanglish!

9no Festival de la Comida Peruana

inicio para obtener más detalles

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.


Me encanta la carrito de paleta!!! inicio para obtener más detalles

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.


él está sosteniendo el bolso Perú!

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.


Chavas, causa y Cusqueña!

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.


Con Mari en Spanglish Arte y bolsas hermosas por vende!

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!

SpanishFriday: Datos Curiosos

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. 

Visioning 21 collage

21 countries. Visioning® collage, created in a 2012 workshop with Dr. Lucia Capacchione

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.

Museo Tequila

From a visit to the Museo Tequila en Tequila, Jalisco, México 2012

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.

Larimar Stairs

Larimar embedded in the stairs at the museum in Santo Domingo, 2012

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. 

Reina Sofia

Outside the Reina Sofia, which houses Picasso’s Guernica, Madrid 2011

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? tiene 18 países, no 21. Pero, no 22, definitivamente

Bus-t A Move: Modern Travel by Bus

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.

Vespa 2010

Scoot-happy in San Francisco, 2010

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.


Tapatío Tour bus in Guadalajara. (Not the bus I took to school)

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.

Autobus GDL

Ah, yes Omnibus de México

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.

Pink Bus

Pink bus in Aguascaliente, between Jalisco and Zacatecas, México

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.”

Green Bus

YAY Green San Esteban bus to Rancho el Charro

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.

Blue Bus PV

My favorite, el Centro bus

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.


I once saw a MARTA bus crash into a parking garage gate

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. 

Terminal en Zapopan

Terminal en Zapopan: I frequented this one and Tonála often

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. 


With my borrowed dog (thanks, Valerie) and my borrowed Bajaj (thanks, Joanne)!

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! 

Vintage Sacramento Greyhound

Vintage Sacramento Greyhound station, nice curves!

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.

Oakland Greyhound

Oakland Greyhound station. The domed ceiling is a work of art!

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.

Vallarta tequila

Puerto Vallarta tequila, made in Nayarit!

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. 

Crafty Table

She’s Crafty: handmade greeting cards in a vintage cigar box

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. 

Bogota Buses

Bus-t a Move: Buses in Bogóta, Colombia, and nothing else on the road!


My First SpanishFriday

Altar 2011

Paper flowers y más: my altar in the Panteón de Sacramento 2011

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.


Latinaish: Tracy Lopez

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


mi primera foto de el grupo REIK en concierto ¡ahhhh hermosos!

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.

Tonola Iglesia

Antes el concierto: una día compras a la talavera en Tonála

An April me viajado por la autobús ETN y cinco horas más tarde, llegado en Tlajomulco de Zuniga, donde Vladimir vive.


Afuera el concierto de REIK con Vladimir en Zapopan

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.


¡Mis Besos, mi foto! estábamos muy cerca del escenario

Gracias a Dios por mi vida buena… ¡especialmente cuando mis sueños hecho realidad!

Labor (Day Weekend) of Love

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.  

Tamales Elote

“Tamales, Elote!” at the Tejano/Conjunto Festival made me miss street food in México

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.


Tower Bridge and gray skies: Bring it on, Sacramento!

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.”  

Sutter Brown

The Governor’s Corgi, Sutter Brown, down for the count at Chalk It Up!

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.  

Gracias a Dios, por la música Tejuano

“Gracias a Dios, por la música Tejuano”

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.  

Ah said, "por favor, amigo, kick up YER heels!"

Ah SED, “Por favor, amigo, kick up YER heels!”

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. 

Papel Picado PLACEMATS! One set left at Artworks21 ¡Compra ahora!

Papel Picado PLACEMATS! One set left at Artworks 21 ¡Compra ahora!

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.

Bigote Booth

Bigote on a stick! In the photo booth

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.


Amazing origami cranes and my Coketa shirt from the Tejano-Conjuno Festival!

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. 

City Better

Represent! I love this sign on J Street near 10th.

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.

Sweet Treats

Sweet nothings! Favorites from Candy Heaven

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.

I am Home (and So Are You)


Every home needs this Talavera sign from Tonála, Jalisco México

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)


Buenas noches, Puerto Vallarta: the view from my apartment front door

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.


It’s your turn to do the dishes - iguana en mi cocina

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.


This Casita statue greets friends with open arms

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 


Ahhh…La Casita en el campo

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.


Whiskey approaches the fence for a fresh apple

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.


Buenos días, gallinas!

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.”  


Getting ready to fish for some pescado along the shore.

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.


Las mujeres, enjoying an afternoon at camp and cleaning pescado for cena

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


Happy in la hamaca, swinging away near three little “homes”

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.


Juan Conejo greets Casita dwellers as we arrive home

Welcome home.

Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling
― Cecelia Ahern, Love, Rosie

Thankful, Tequila and Two Shoes

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


Lorrain, Amy, Lauren and Me: Rarely a dull moment with such creative friends

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.


Afuera de mi santuario favorito

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. 

aprendiendo español

Spanish 101: ¿hablos español?

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.

Daniel and Julio

Daniel and Julio “warming up” with the history of 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). 

Julio Tequila

Julio inhales the tequila’s aroma. “Did someone say they smelled Ethanol?”

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).

Kate Dana and Julio

Meeting Señor Bermejo: “El Gusto es Mio!” This man is sweet as agave. ¡Gracias, Julio!

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.”

Crafters' Parking

Lauren in the middle, trying to spell “Pros”

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.


Two Shoes Studio, with Slipper the dog

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.

Casita Secreto

Sneak Peek! Wish you were here?

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…

Ask, Believe, Receive… and Leap

Don’t get too comfortable with who you are at any given time – you may miss the opportunity to become who you want to be. - Jon Bon Jovi

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.
Casa Collage

One of several Visioning® collages made while living in México 2013

During a visit to the US in June to see family and friends, I debated staying in Sacramento, CA to plan my next adventure. Following a week of weighted contemplation, I decided to forfeit returning to my fantastic life in México, where I lived 4 blocks from the beach and celebrated each day with complete gratitude.
Tlaquepaque dancers

¡Viva los colores! With dancers in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, México December 2012

If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story. - Orson Welles

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? 

REIK en vivo, Zapopan, April 2013: another dream come true!

Some people just stay there, in the dream forever not really hoping for more; me, I’m too restless and curious about the world. Besides, I have a new dream to focus on now: volunteer teaching in Colombia, South America.
Lake Chapala

Lake Chapala on a beautiful sunny day, December 2012

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.

Señor Pony

With Señor Pony in El Zapote, Jalisco December 2012

México, as predicted, turned out to be like a perfect, warm tortilla: wrapping me in its soft, tasty arms, nourishing me without leaving me feeling stuffed.  “Satisfecha,” my host mother, Titi (my mama Méxicana and a great cook) used to say after a meal.  I already miss México, but feel confident that what I remember will be there when I return.

I left the ending ambiguous, because that is the way life is. - Bernardo Bertolucci

Now that I am back in Sacramento, I am already busy planning for Colombia and finding short-term or contract work. In addition to creating teaching and graphic design jobs, I am reaching out to my well-connected network of professionals and friends, knowing “Ask. Believe. Receive.” is the greatest mantra you can chant while focusing on what you want.  
Colombia Media

Diving into Colombia! (and Tito el Bambino, just because I’m a fan)

As I give thanks for the opportunity to relax and regroup after 9 months of español and sueños, I am eager to start funding my next dream and preparing myself mentally and emotionally for the potential challenges of moving to Colombia. I have already started contacting others with WorldTeach experience in South America, and so far their stories intrigue and inspire me.

It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.
Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Colombia Row

Charleston’s Rainbow Row? No, just another calle de los colores in Colombia!

Finally, as with any new adventure in life, there are doubts, fears and questions, especially from those not going with you. While I don’t quite yet seem to have the support and faith from all my friends and family, I hope by my time of departure, they will come around to believe in me,  cheering me on as I leap… and watching in awe as the net appears.

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 

Travel, Time and Taco Taste-Tests

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.

La Superior

¡Bienvenidos!  Feeling right at home with La Superior on Northgate in Natomas

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.


¡Sonrisas with Emmanuel Archuleta (a.k.a. Manny Lee) at Spanglish Arte!

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.


¡mmm tacos y tostadas de Taqueria Garibaldi, gracias!

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!

Jenn Metal

Jenn in her metal costume making everyone smile, especially me!

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.

Kate y Lorraine

Girls love bling! With Lorraine Garcia of Rain’s Embellishments at Spanglish Arte

“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.

Elly and Kate Dana

“Follow your dreams and you’ll never feel lost”

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.

Sippin delicious

Sippin’ delicious at the Rutledge Cab Company in Charleston

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.

Ritas with Shannon

Sippin’ sweetly sour with Shannon at Rita’s Seaside Grill, Folly Beach SC

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.

Bizarro Wuxtry

Visiting my friend artist Devlin Thompson at Bizarro Wuxtry, Athens GA

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.

Universal Joint

Sammich, tots and a pint at Universal Joint, East Lake Atlanta GA

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.

Ale Yeah!

Getting the growlers filled! Ale Yeah! Craft Brew Market with Ali Tait in East Lake

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.

Tina Bridgette KD

Chillin with chismes, cocktails, and my girlfriends of 20+ years, Tina and Bridgette

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.

KD La Fiesta

Back in Sac at Taqueria La Fiesta: guiding my destiny, one taco at a time

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.

Vista de Mi Vida

“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
- Muhammad Ali

Buenos Dias

Buenos días! All smiles with fresh fruit: this is living! At Fredy’s Tucan

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

Happy Los Muertos

Hooray for Friends! And happy hour at Los Muertos Brewing Company

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.

Cigarillos at Gato Gordo

Cigarillos with Rogelio at El Gato Gordo

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. 

Luca Cisca and Licor de Canela

With Luca Cisca and Licor de Canela at Sapori di Sicilia

We laughed through karaoke with Edgar’s delicious Limonáda at Café Romaand waited out a rainstorm enjoying melty queso fundo at Bar Oceano.

Chicas y Banda

“Do you guys know how to play ‘La Bamba’?” at Bar Oceano Tropical

 We ate breakfast at Fredy’s Tucan and tested guacamole at several restaurants (Swell Beach Bar makes a tasty one).

Jorge at Swell

Michelada with mesero Jorge at Swell Beach Bar. This is after I ate the rest of the Guac!

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.

Tank Mixes at Joe Jack's

Tank: Possibly the best bartender in Vallarta! At Joe Jack’s Fish Shack

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.

Malecon Sunday

Friends enjoy the sunshine on El Malécon (Yes, that’s my big flowery bag he’s holding.)

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.

Rancho Ears

My view through ears, with Ramón from Rancho el Charro

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. 

Luna Vista de Vallarta

With my horse, Luna, and a spectacular view of Puerto Vallarta

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).

Ramon and me

All smiles with a snuggly perrito and Ramón from Rancho el Charro

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.

Guacamole Fernando

Fernando mixes delicious guacamole at Mi Querencia

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.

Cocina Roll

No wasting time en mi cocina! Just kidding, it’s an amazing demo kitchen at Mundo de Azulejos

Like (Happy) Tears… In Rain

 All those … moments will be lost in time, like tears…in rain. – Bladerunner (1982)

Rain y risas

The rain in México makes me… happy? Sometimes!

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.

Dog Days of Summer Solstice


¡Xoloitzcuintle! /shoh-loh-eets-kweent-lee/ Méxican hairless dog. They feel like piglets. Frida Kahlo had Xolos!

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.


Canela, my neighbor’s dog, stops by for a cool drink

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!)


El el perro de mi dueño, also my neighbor, chills out on my tile floor.

My first visit to México was in July 2011. With my head full of summer travel tips from, 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.

Besito de Perrito

Besito de Perrito: stealing a kiss during clean up!

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.

Arturito Coronito

Arturito Coronito: this pup knows how to keep his cool!

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)!

Julieta Stick

Julieta dips with a stick in El Rio Cuale

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.

Baby Blue

Hugs and smiles for a Baby Blue Pitbull

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.

Dancing Dog

Dancing dogs and chicas de la Brigada!

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 Rio Cuale

Enjoying el Rio Cuale with my new friend Julieta

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.

Gabriela y Arturito:

Gabriela y Arturito: cool kisses on a hot day

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.

Gratitude Inventory

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.”

Gina and Eddie

Gina with Eddie, one of her friends from the streets, near Santa Monica

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.

Calamardo at Las Margaritas

Calamardo at Las Margaritas with a beautiful chile relleno!

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!

David at La Mesa del Coco

David at La Mesa del Coco with a beautiful tequila presentation

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!

Michael and Yvonne

Que?Pasa owner Michael Hayes and his wife Yvonne have much to celebrate!

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. 

Flyers for the week

Flyers, menus and cards: gratitude is everywhere

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.

Speedy and Me

Give thanks for little dogs like Speedy that you can hold in bars!

Thanks for the reminder, Gina. I’ve taken inventory this week and find myself more grateful than ever for my life.

Pinterest, Best Town and Autumn Brown


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.


In addition to being a great Interior Designer, Janel is also a fantastic artist.

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 is the Party!

Pink goodness on Pinterest, Amy IS the Party

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.

Steph's Pinterest

Do you see it? Right there in the middle! ahhh

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.

Autumn at RAW

Visit the RAW website to see more art and buy a ticket :)

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. 

Angelic Street Day


Big smiles with La Brigada regulars, Danika and Lizset

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:


The size of a business card, with a 2013 calendar on the back

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.


I always wondered if the kids could see the angel in this painting

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.”

serving Jamaica

Serving Jamaica with one of my favorite chicas, always smiling! Photo by Yvonne Hayes from QP

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. 


With more kids from La Brigada, ¡mis angelitos de sabado!

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.

The Many Words of Aic3la

Confessions of a scatterbrain at it's best....

No Particular Place To Go

We're baby boomers who are currently in Central America and have been traveling since September, 2012 after opting out of the "American Dream" and selling everything. Life as long-term travelers has challenged and changed us in unexpected ways, greatly enriched our lives and proven to be far more than we'd hoped for...

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Teacher | Artist | Travel Writer

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