Poverty & the open heart Chakra

After two years away from Guatemala and Lake Atitlán, it’s easy to dwell on the negatives – the disrepair, the corruption, the petty theft, all of it. But the most important intangible, something so easily lost in a metropolis like New York or Shanghai, is the openness and sincerity of the people who live here. This obvious truth came to me loud and clear – walking the streets and chatting with locals I’ve come to know, simple dinners with Sheni’s family, or hanging out with friends here. The people who choose to live here have consciously abandoned pretensions of wealth as happiness (or they’re just misfits!), and the people who were born here have never known any other way. As for the locals, they look at you when they talk, and they smile even when they’re overcharging you for their services.  As for the small group of transplants, the majority from other places in Guatemala and the Spanish-speaking world, they are boisterous, sincere, and they like to party. But within that partying there is the attempt at true conversation, connection, and meaning. Life here is far from perfect, but the lake brings home the perspective that we all sometimes lack, and reminds us that our petty desires are not larger than the needs of the planet that sustains us. Translating that perspective into political action and environmental conservation, however, is a political question which an extranjero can never truly answer.

Between Worlds

Met a publisher today, an older guy, and he basically confirmed that the indie author path is the right way for me to go, at least for now. My website for the book should be up in a few more days, and then the true marketing can begin. He also suggested Google Ads and Facebook Ads, neither of which I have looked into yet. At this point, I am still only selling the book to people within my immediate circles. Obviously, that’s not going to get the project launched. I need to find my audience. My readers are out there, I just need to learn how to reach them.

In the two years in Shanghai, my social/conversational Spanish definitely took a beating. Hanging out with G and some other friends up at the Peña, and though I could understand everything in Spanish, my tongue was slow to catch up, and everyone was talking so fast! I’m fine 1-on-1 with anyone, but in a noisy, crowded room with everyone speaking Spanish quickly, I was a little rusty, for sure.

I am 9 days into my 30-day stretching program, and last night I even played mini-fut (indoor/outdoor soccer) with my ex-students, all of whom have graduated high school. Am I bragging if I say I scored 3 goals against guys less than half my age?

Next blog post, poverty and the open heart chakra…


Old Sights, New Eyes

Walking around Panajachel and a few other towns on Lake Atitlan this week, seeing the same old thing with a new set of eyes. Same old holes in the roads, the same old separation between the people with money and the people without. Poverty in Guatemala is not hidden and shamed the way it is in the urban centers of the USA or China, it’s right out in the open, and people deal with it together rather than in isolation. The demographic in Pana has skewed noticeably toward retirees, while San Pedro across the lake seemed brimming with youthful, transient travelers.

It was my suegro’s birthday last night, and as I taught my sobrinas a little English, their father was talking to a tía in Kaqchikel.  I guess it’s only fitting that my first gig back will be at Gringo Loco on Sunday night for 100 quetzales, dinner, and two drinks. That’s about 13 dollars for those scoring at home. Summary? The global village concept is a cute cliché, but moving between worlds requires the ability to tolerate the superficial for the sake of the depth that lies beneath.

Empowerment and the Power Grid

The lights are back on today after an all-day blackout yesterday in Panajachel.  After two years in the whistling metropolis of Shanghai, where artificial lights and virtual reality dazzle the urban brain, the primary colors of Lake Atitlan and pure sunshine are boring holes in me, cleaning me out and making me lighter. A blackout in a city equals total chaos, but the people here marched on as if nothing was wrong. Businesses all lost a day, or sold what they could in darkened shops, knowing that the lights would come back on at the end of the day. If something like that were to occur in Shanghai or New York, the chaos would be unmanageable. Of course, this leads to speculating on life without the power grid. The survivors would undoubtedly be the local people everywhere who don’t rely on electronic transactions and the blazing binary.

Morning stretches and Crossroads Coffee to start the day, clouds hanging low over the tips of the volcanoes. Settling into the house is taking longer than expected. The accumulation of stuff has overtaken our lives. Now, the winnowing…