Wednesday, January 28, 2009


A few people requested more photos and less words. I can´t guarantee less words, but here´s some more photos. Sadly, tragically even, my camera broke. I don´t know why, but yesterday it shuddered as it took its final breath and looked at me as if to say, ¨It´s been real, kid...but my work here is done.¨ The thing is, it´s work wasn´t done. Shucks. Oh well, I´ll get a new one when I get to Guatemala City in a few days. Hopefully Rolene´s camera, iffy as it is, will hold up till then so I can keep posting photos.

From the road on the way back from Lake Atitlán with Volcán San Pedro and Volcán Tolimán behind it. The bus ride down there was atrocious. It took two hours from Chimaltenengo and for the first hour I was the third person on a seat made for two so I was only halfway on the seat, going around crazy twists and turns. When we finally got there, carsick and cranky, I wasn´t sure that the ride was worth it, but it most definitely was. This is the deepest lake in Central America at about 5,000 feet deep.

The two aforementioned volcanoes on the left and Volcán Atitlán on the right. This shot and the next were taken from our table at a restaurant called Sunset in the town of Panajachel. It was ridiculously beautiful and only a little bit chilly (it´s been cold in the mountains--cold enough to see our breath and there was ice on the ground a few nights ago, in Xela). we ate, we chatted with Melody, from San Francisco and a man from Holland. It was lovely, and the wine didn´t hurt either :)
Somewhere between Tecpan and Chimaltenengo. These ¨from the road¨ shots start to blend together and it´s hard to remember where exactly we were. Not a terribly exciting shot, but a typical view of farmland with the hills in the background.

These guys were walking, in the opposite direction, on the highway near Tecpan. They´d found an injured bird and were taking it home to try and nurse it back to health.

From the road on our way from Xela to Tecpan. It´s beautiful, but you can also see the deforestation in the hills. Lots of clearcut mountains around here.

The family we stayed with in Tecpan. Miguel Angel, his two kids Gaby and Angel and their grandma and great-aunt came to check out our truck before we left town. Juanita, Miguel Angel´s wife, had already left for work (teaching 4th grade).

Angel is a real ham. Cute as a bug, easy to laugh and very full of personality.
Miguel Angel and the kids watching Rolene play her harp.

Gaby is very smart. She´s 5 yrs old and can read upside down. She unknowingly gave me a vocabulary lesson when we were playing one night. She has a toy cell phone and it would ¨ring¨and I´d pick it up and pretend to talk to whoever she said was on the phone. I talked to Jesus, a sheep, a angel, her dad, grandpa, the Virgin. Then she told me it was Santa Claus and I asked her what she wanted for Christmas and we named about a thousand nouns. I think I only remember a few of them by heart, but it was fun and we cracked up a bunch of times.

We are now in a small town called Parramos, staying in the home of Lauren Lasalle, who is in the States right now. This is also the office of the Mayan Scholarship Fund, which gives money to Mayans who are doing work in the community.
Miguel Angel, from the pictures, is the director of MSF. It was really great to stay with his family. Having little kids around is always fun for me and when the adult Spanish-talk got too overwhelming I could go goof around with the kids. The first day I felt really cranky (and my stomach, though not keeping me layed out as it did when I was really sick, was still a little shaky) and I felt shy/unwilling to sit around and not understand a lot of the chatting. I took some time to be alone and listen to music, which really helped. Rolene and I get along quite well, but we are basically always together. I need more alone time to sit with my thoughts and quietly process my day. This is true when I´m in a regular routine back home, and even more so on this constantly stimulating trip.
We are getting into a good routine with walking, doing about 10 miles a day with breaks on the days when we move the truck to a new town and need to resettle. I feel strong and healthy and only have one small blister so far. I´m much happier on the days when we are walking than on the days where we move to a new town. The constant state of transition is hard for me and once we´ve stayed somewhere for more than one night I want to call it home and settle in. So, each time we move it´s a readjustment and on the first day I think that there´s no way that this new place is going to live up to the last place and I don´t like it very much. Then, I get comfortable with the people and we start walking and I cheer up. I´m seeing this pattern happen, so I can just relax and take it a little easy on the first day, knowing that I´ll feel better the next day.
A few mostly unrelated notes: After the hot showers at Miguel Angel´s the cold bucket of water sponge bath here in Parramos leaves something to be desired. I hate bus/truck/car fumes and the smell of roadkill. I hate roosters. I love the hours of daydreaming while walking. I love long underwear. I miss you guys.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Quetzaltenengo II

Here's Rolene and Marco Antonio playing music together. It was such a nice family feeling to have everyone sitting around, more or less doing their own thing but doing it together.

Marco Antonio and Sandra, the parents of the Rivera family. They have three kids--Jonathan, Shesnarda, y Pedro Pablo. I miss them already.

Here's a shot from the road in Chiapas, on our way to Guatemala. I don't have any photos of Guatemala near the border because we hid our cameras and money in case we were robbed. It was unlikely that we would be since we followed advice to cross before 2pm, when it's safer.

This is Maria, my friend from Las Palmas, which is a little island in the middle of the mangrove swamp. She walked around with us and was completely charming. I like talking to kids because they don't ask me complicated questions.

Here's a shot from the shore of Las Palmas. It was so amazing to be there because there were no cars! Not even one and there probably had never been a car here ever. We met a archeologist from UCSB, Barbara, who was leading a group (one from Texas and two from Chile) of archaelogists who were studying the mounds of discarded shells in the swamps. They have found evidence of human civilization as far back as 7.5 thousand years ago.

Mangroves. Amazing. We could hear lots of birds, but they were in the canopy above us so I didn't see many. We went on a boat taxi through the swamp and out to Las Palmas.

The beach we camped at in Perto Arista, Mexico. Right after taking this picture I saw at least 4 dolphins swimming really close to shore. It was magical and I was the only one out on the beach as far as I could see so I got/had to enjoy it all by myself.

The baby sea turtles at the reserve we went to near Puerta Arista. These tortugas had just been born and were to be released that night at 9pm. I hope they made it! Each one was about half as big as my palm.

There were a couple things I forgot to say last night. One is that I love it when I hear sentences that I've never heard before. When Rolene and I were walking into Quetzaltenengo yesterday, the shoulder came to an end and Rolene exclaimed, "Oooh, a ditch! Great!" I've never heard anyone so excited to see a ditch by the side of the road, but when one has been walking through Mexico and Guatemala for 10 months as she has, one's priorities change. Sidewalks are rare here, and very nice to have when they exist. Cars, trucks and buses go really fast and when there's not even a shoulder to walk on it can be dangerous, so we won't do that unless we have no other options.

The other thing I meant to say is that I think it's so cool that cities have nicknames here. We use acronyms, but not nicknames as much...Well, I guess we have The Big Apple and The City of Angels. The nicknames here are different. Quetzaltenengo is called Xela, and Retalhuleu is Reu. I just learned, as I was writing this, that when the Spanish conquerors came here they brought soldiers from the north (what is now Mexico) of the Nahuatl people. Quetzaltenengo and Retalhuleu are Nahuatl names and Xela and Reu are the Mayan names. One place we went today is called San Antonio Xecul, which is a combo of the Spanish name and the Mayan name.

I'm having a really hard time uploading the photos onto this post. I was going to end here and then do a new one with photos and stories from today. But, I think I'll tell you about today and hope to get some photos up too.

We walked along the highway for a while until the shoulder disappeared and then asked where we could safely walk. We were directed to go through some farmland and up through a tiny puebla I mentioned above, San Antonio Xecul. We saw the school so Rolene went to go see if there were kids to talk to, but school wasn't in session today. The teachers were there though so we hung out with them and talked about the walk and they shared what they were doing with their students. They're doing a reforestation project with the kids, which was exciting to hear. When we were leaving they told us to go see a man in the town nearby, Salcaja, because he runs the local TV station and might want to broacast something about the walk. When we got there he took us up to his studio above his house and we talked about the walk (well, Rolene did most of the talking) and then found out that he'd been broadcasting live. I was on TV! I'm gonna be famous! What a funny day.
We also heard that the oldest Catholic church in Guatemala, built in 1524, is in Salcaja so we went to go see it. It's always impressive to see such old bulidings, but it mostly made me sad. Churches like this one are a symbol of the conversion of a people from their native, earth-based religions...and were mostly likely built with slave labor. So, it was interesting, but not joyful to visit there.
It's now Saturday morning. I tried to post the above last night and it failed, so I'm trying again now. We're headed out and will park the truck in some town between here and Guatemala City and do some walking. Not sure when I'll have internet again, but I'm sure it won't be long. Until then...

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Hola a todos!
It´s becoming abundantly clear to me that I´m not going to be able to tell you about all the places we visit on this adventure. I have notes in my journal of stories that I want to write about, but the last time I had a chance to write to this blog I only had time enough to tell about Oaxaca and Tuxtla. Since then we´ve stayed on the beach in Puerta Arista, Mexico, crossed the border into Guatemala, gotten lost and then found, blind and then wait...I mean we got lost and then found our way, I got super sick for about 24 hours from something I ate, and now we are in Quetzaltenengo, Guatemala at the home of a lovely family who we met through a Guatemalan Quaker named Christian Sosa. I haven´t met Christian yet but he´s joining us once we get to Guatemala City. Soooo, hope springs eternal, but I don´t think I can tell you about all of that in one or three posts. I´ll just tell you about today and hope that the stories from the past few days will come out in their own time.
Before I proceed I want to put out a request, a plea, if you will: write to me! I can´t tell you how wonderful it is to get news from home, even boring news. It´s very sad to open my email and only have one from my credit card saying my bill is ready and another from Netflix wondering if I want to open an account. That is not exciting, not at all. Tell me stories about how you went to work and an idiot pissed you off, or how you had dinner with a friend and they paid the bill, which made your day, or how you didn´t do anything today except eat saltines and watch the entire first, and only, season of My So Called Life. Tell me anything about your life or just tell me you love me (if you do) and miss me (you must by now!). Ok, end plea.
I can´t add any pictures today because my camera cord is out in the car. Let me explian the car situation because when I told you all I was walking across Central America I was mostly correct, but slightly uninformed. This is a project built around walking. However, when Rolene was getting ready to set out, she was happy to take a burro (como un burro!) and just start walking. Walk With Earth is a non-profit started by Rolene, but run by a board of directors who have some say over how the walk goes. They insisted that Rolene have a support vehicle in case of emergency, medical or otherwise. We have this small RV that we can sleep in when we aren´t taken in by generous people like we were tonight. It´s calming to know that if one of us got sick or hurt or if some danger presented itself, we could get to help quickly. But, the truck presents us with complications also. At the beginning of the walk, in northern Mexico, Rolene´s friend was driving the truck ahead of Rolene and the other walkers. At this point, we don´t have a driver so we have to drive to a town and find a safe place to leave the truck, then bus backwards and walk to the truck, or walk forward and take a bus back. Kind of silly, but we don´t have another option (unless YOU want to come join the adventure, for any amount of time, and drive for awhile. It´s a really fun and cheap way to travel and see this beautiful area of the world. Think about it, you will not regret it!).
Today we left Retalhuleu, where we spent the last two nights in a hotel (I was way too sick to travel, even by car, so instead I lay sweating through the sheets of my bed while Rolene did a bunch of work on the computer) and arrived about an hour and a half later in Quetzaltenengo. The drive was beautiful, with sharp mountains covered in pine trees and precarious looking corn fields on either side of us (the Sierra Madres mountains, I believe). The curves were reminicent of the drive to Stinson Beach, north of San Francisco. Rolene had a speaking gig at the Universidad San Marcos at 5pm so we had enough time eat lunch and take a bus a few miles out of town and walk back to the University. The walk was easy, though the traffic offered us a healthy dose of fumes and dust. When we got back to the University we had a little time to rest before Rolene spoke to a group of agriculture students about the walk and her ideas about how to move towards a sustainable human existence on earth. The 30 or so students were very interested and receptive, and were kind enough to stay for the talk after finishing an exam. I´m not sure that, if I were in their shoes, I would have stayed to hear a strange gringa talk, but either they are more obedient than I, or maybe more polite.
Alex, who came to the talk, then took us to his aunt and uncle´s house where we were given a delicious and simple dinner of scrambled eggs, refried black beans, and fresh tortillas. After dinner, two of their kids came home and in conversation we learned that they lived for two years in Las Cruces, NM! It was very exciting to hear this because a) I was just living there with my sister, Brooke, her husband, Issa and my new nephew, Kouli; and b) it means they speak some English! My brain gets so tired of constantly listening to Spanish and trying to respond appriopriately. It´s nice to let my brain relax for a little while. Granted, Rolene speaks English with me, but still...
As I was writing this, Rolene was playing her harp (not a full-sized one) and Marco Antonio, the father, was playing the guitar and people were singing. It was beautiful and peaceful and altogether lovely. It´s time for bed now. I´m so grateful to be where I am right now and am excited to wake up and see where tomorrow takes me (about 10 miles, give or take, from where I am now). Goodnight and buenas noches!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oaxaca to Tuxtla-Gutierrez

sorry about the sideways pictures...this is the Parachico celebration. it takes way too long to download pictures so that´s all you get for now.

These are from Monte Alban. Pretty cool, right?

I didn´t mean to include these two photos, but now I can´t take them off...look at them, but not with as much interest as the ones I meant to include.

These past four days have been very full. We were in Oaxaca for two days, Tuxtla-Gutierrez for one and a half days, a tiny ocean town called Puerto Arista for one night and now we are in a small town called Escuintle, really close to Tapachula, the border town just this side of Guatemala. It might be boring if I told you everything that has happened, but it amazes me how much can fit into four days, so I want to at least tell you the highlights. I´ll write each leg of the trip in a different post so that this one doesn´t get too long. Sorry if I say too much for those of you who like the short-n-sweet, and if I say to little for those of you who want all the details. Oh, if you´re interested in what Rolene has to say you can check her blog at
I didn’t do much on Thursday in Oaxaca because I have some sort of illness that involves a sore throat. It ended up not being the pollution in Mexico City because it got worse when we left and I was pretty worn out. I´m finally feeling a little better today, which is a big relief because I was getting tired of being in constant pain every time I swallowed.

However, Friday was pretty awesome even though I was still sick. I felt well enough to go to some ruins called Monte Alban, about ½ hour outside of Oaxaca. I’ve never been to ruins like this before and I was totally impressed. Monte Alban was inhabited for 500 B.C. to 850 A.D., when it was abandoned for unknown reasons. The Zapotecs built it and later the Mixtecs arrived and buried high status people in the Zapoteca tombs. I’ll include a couple pictures, but as you know, the pictures don’t really capture the whole experience. It was a very windy day and only mildly warm. I was there by myself because Rolene had already been there twice. I haven’t done many touristy things like this by myself, and I was surprised to find how nice it was to wander with only my own agenda and walk quietly with my thoughts, not needing to articulate them to anyone.

I pissed some Zapoteca spirits off and then saw a disappearing man. Enough said….
Just kidding, I’ll tell you about it. Before going down into the main plaza of Monte Alban, I walked through the surrounding buildings, some of which were ceremonial buildings and some were houses, and almost all buildings included tombs. I approached one house and read the sign outside that said it was an unusual home because it contained 4 tombs instead of one. I walked through the front hallway and as soon as I entered the first room, I got really uncomfortable and my mind kept saying, “Get out of here, get out of here.” I told myself to chill out and stop being so dramatic, but the “get out of here” continued so I left and apologized to whoever didn’t want me there. Then I turned to go back toward the main plaza and saw a little hill with a man in a white shirt sitting on top. I was a little freaked out by what had just happened so I thought I’d ask him if I could sit with him. I walked up the hill, practicing how to say, “can I sit with you?” in Spanish, but when I got there, he was gone. I don’t know how he could have gotten down except for the way I came up because it was all brambles and steep drop offs. I sat on that hill for a while until I felt normal again. When I got back to Oaxaca and told Rolene about my experience, she told me that when she’d been to Monte Alban before she’d had really bad feelings by the exact same house. Word to the wise: stay away from the house with 4 tombs on the far north side of Monte Alban--you are not wanted there! Or, I wasn’t anyhow, and I’m choosing to not take it personally.

That night Rolene and I got on an overnight bus, headed for Tuxtla-Gutierrez in Chiapas, where the support car was parked over the holidays. The bus was comfortable enough, but the ride was horrible. I had worn myself out going to Monte Alban so my throat hurt like crazy and I just wanted to sleep, but after the first hour, the road was so curvy I had to keep my eyes opened and keep all my energy focused on not puking. Rolene wasn’t so lucky, but I managed to make it through the hours of windy roads and we both got a couple hours of sleep eventually. We arrived in Tuxtla at 7am, exhausted, hungry and and zonked-out. After hooking up with the guy who had watched Rolene’s car for the past few weeks, we had to charge the car battery, get a new tire, get the brakes fixed and then finally we ate breakfast with Tony, a gringo friend who is living with his wife and her family in town.
Tony told us that we had come on a good day because not only was his family having a party to celebrate the day baby Jesus first sat up (oh, did you think that Christmas was over weeks ago…wrong!! Christmas is still going strong here. Yeah, maybe he was born on the 25th (though that’s historically debatable) but he apparently did a bunch of stuff after he was born. Christmas goes almost until Easter here. Bet you didn’t realize what a bunch of holiday slackers we are back home!), but we were also in town for the festival of the year, going on about 45 minutes away in Chiapa del Corzo. I have to say, though, that I think there’s about 15 “festival of the year”celebrations. In any case, Tony told us that we were required to go to Chiapa del Corzo for Parachico (para=for, chico=boy or more loosely, child). If we didn’t go, his family would be mad at him for not making us go. Rolene and I were so bone tired, but we had a couple hours to kill while the brakes were being worked on and nowhere to sleep anyhow so we got in a taxi and slept on the way to Chiapa del Corzo.

We arrived in Chiapa del Corzo right on time for the procession to start (or at least one of the processions. There are apparently more than one and the one we saw was probably not the biggest) and got a good spot for taking pictures. I have a rough understanding of the signifgance of Parachico and I´ll try to piece it together here. Back in the 1500´s there was a rich Spanish lady in Chiapas and her son got sick. The locals dressed up with masks and head dresses and danced to make the boy better. Since then, Parachico is still celebrated, but honestly, I´m not sure why. As I understand it, the boys who are involved in Parachico don´t just participate in the one parade that we saw. It´s more of a devotional practice in that they do a bunch of prayers and preparation before Parachico. One the actual day, they dress up in the costume (there´s pictures above) and do the march/dance for hours. Keep in mind that this is Chiapas, Mexico and it´s really hot. The costumes are dark and heavy and with all the dancing for hours, many boys reach an altered state of consciousness, according to Tony. The girls and women wear these incredibly beautiful dresses (also pictured above) and the effect of the whole things is generally overwhelming and beautiful. Parachico only happens in Chiapas, and I´m not sure if it is celebrated in all of Chiapas or just this region.

When we finally got to Tony´s house we had a few hours to sleep before the party. I came downstairs just as the religious part of the party was starting. We all had candles and the kids who had been chosen at a previous party also held figurines of baby Jesus sitting on the throne. They sang a beautiul song while we stood in the entrance to the house, then everyone went inside and they sang another song while they put the figurines around a little altar. People were lighting sparklers and the littler kids were running around. This was a religious ceremony, but it was also just fun and relaxed. After this part ended, it was just a party. There were about 60 people there and they were all from Maria´s (Tony´s wife) fathers side of the family, who come from the Zoque indigeonous group. Maria´s mom´s family is Zapateca and they live further away so they weren´t at the party. The families who were chosen as the baby Jesus holders at the last party are also epected to bring the food for the party. Tony warned us that Chiapas is the poorest state in Mexico so the food would be made from ingredients that people could afford. I was really grateful to be included in this family party (it´s not every day that a couple of gringas get to go to a family party celebrating the day Jesus sat up...come to think of it, Jesus was pretty advanced to be able to sit up at one month old...). I can´t say, though, that I was very interested in the hotdog/mayonaise combination on top of a mini tostada shell or the other hotdog dishes available. But did I eat them? Hell yes, I did, thanking them profusely the whole time.

Ok, this post is getting REALLY long. I´ll stop now, and put the Tuxtla to Puerto Arista leg of the trip in the next entry.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mexico City, after the fact

Here's Rolene and I in the Alameda, some nice park blocks near the Zocalo, which is the square at the center of Mexico City.

Rolene and I are now in Oaxaca City, about 6 hours SW of Mexico City. Now that I've left Mexico City I can think about it more critically. I don't know if it's just part of my personality that it can be hard for me to discuss something as it's happening, or if Mexico City is so overwhelming that it's essentially impossible to talk about any case, I've had some time to think and can now try to express those thoughts to you all.
A friend commented in an email a couple days ago that I seem to be comfortable here and asked me how it felt to be in Mexico City again, if it felt the same as when I lived here in 2006. I told him that I'm comfortable, in a funny way. It feels like home in that I feel like myself the way I do in the Bay Area. But at the same time, things are new and exciting and Spanish challenges me, so I have to pay more attention, which in some ways makes me feel more like myself than I do at home. 
I'm sure that this challenge with language is fairly universal for people who have traveled and had to speak in a new language. I find myself suddenly without the ability to articulately express myself verbally, which is a area I am very confident in at home and which is part of my identity. I am a good speaker; I feel heard and respected when I share my opinions. Without that skill, who am I? How do I define and express myself? I have to trust that people will try to understand my intentions, as I do theirs, even if our words fall short. 
In this new culture, nothing can be assumed and the rhythm of life is so different than it is in Berkeley. While it can be tiring to be constantly assimilating and incorporating new information (new words, new sense of direction--no hills and bay to help me tell east from west, new body language and customs), I appreciate how it allows me to see how there is more than one way to move through the world and interact with those around me. 
One of the reasons I feel so comfortable here is that the sense of community is so much stronger than in the States. We are very individualistic, as a culture, in the US. Well, at least in the parts where I've lived and visited. I love that when people enter or leave a room they greet each other with a handshake or a kiss on the cheek, even if they don't know each other or have any reason to know each other. I love that people stop to talk on the street even if they are already late (this may account for the infamous "mexican time") and that they call out to each other and talk to one another on the bus. How strange it must be for a Mexican immigrant to get on a bus in Berkeley and be encountered with silence and see everyone wearing headphones keeping their eyes down, because god forbid we make eye contact with one another. Now, this is not to say that I don't sometimes wish that people would stop talking to me or trying to sell me something, but I guess I prefer telling people to go away to wishing someone would chat with me as we roll down San Pablo Ave. 
I also love how unabashedly people are in love here. Teenagers, or old people for that matter, make out on park benches. Couples run across the street, giggling and holding hands, and fall into an embrace in celebration of making it, miraculously, across the street alive. People don't look away from these public displays of affection and whisper behind their fingers to their friends, "Get a room, already!"  
I feel connected to strangers here. This is partly the Mexican culture--all the handshakes and kisses and exchanges of "buenos dias" with people I may never see again. But, I think this sense of connection may be another effect of traveling, wherever one might go. When traveling, we have to trust that people are giving us good directions (although, don't trust that too much here because people are so eager to help they will give you directions even if they have no bloody idea where you want to ask a few people before heading out), or that they are giving you a fair price, or that they are trying to help you rather than take you for a ride. We have to trust people, or we end up missing out on the kind of interactions that make traveling what it is. The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation has a line that says, "As viewed, so appears." If we think of the world as a dangerous place, our mind will pick out dangerous people and places. If we view the world as safe and abundant, that is what we will see when we look around. When I move through the world with this philosophy and assuming that my needs will be met, I find myself experiencing a life beyond my wildest dreams. This is what traveling does for me--it stretches me and opens my eyes to a greater reality. 

Well, I've got to go now because Rolene and I are headed to Chiapas on an overnight bus and we have to get a taxi. There's a parade going down the street our hotel is on, which could make it hard to get to the bus station. I don't know when I'll have internet again, but I will soon tell you about Oaxaca and visiting the ruins at Monte Alban. It was amazing. Love to you all...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday morning and all's well...

Hello from Mexico City (still)!
We are still here, tooling around the city...well, I'm tooling around. Rolene has a lot of work to do as far as planning our connections, sending umpteen emails, trying to call people on Skype, etc. I can only help so much with that stuff so I've been hanging out and visiting with friends here in el DF (this is what Mexico City is called in Mexico- el Distrito Federal).
I saw Betty on Sunday, for the first time since I lived here two years ago, and it was like no time had passed at all (except for the fact that we had new stories for each other, like how she has a new baby and is getting married in May!). I've been working hard on my Spanish so it was really fun and helpful to play Scrabble in Spanish with her. I learned a bunch of new words, some helpful (cerro is hill, as opposed to montaña) and some that I'm not sure I'll use on a daily basis (pato is duck, which is a word I rarely use in English so I wonder if it will come in handy).
Yesterday I had a great lunch with Rolene, her neice Rachel (who walked with her for 6 weeks last summer and is now volunteering at the Casa), and Christel, my friend and the Quaker in residence here at the Casa. Rachel was talking about her time on the walk and I asked her about how is was for her to have very little Spanish when she arrived and she reminded me about how generous and forgiving locals are with travelers who attempt to speak Spanish. We commiserated about how un-funny we are in Spanish (as opposed to how hilarious we are in English...) because humor is so nuanced. She gave me a good tip- at any point in a conversation she says "Como un burro" ("like a donkey") and whether it makes sense or not, people crack up. I may use this tactic if I get desperate.
Yesterday was a good day. Rolene and I planned our itinerary for the next month by looking at a map of Guatemala and figuring out how far we want to go each day and which towns we want to stay in. Most of it is fairly flexible. We have to go to one place called Quetzaltenango to get insurance for the support vehicle, we want to hit Antigua, and we'll spend a few days in Chicquimula, where there's a small pocket of Quakers. Other than that we are pretty fexible, which is nice because we have the freedom to hear about a cool town or some beautiful nature place and take a detour. I like having a goal/plan but not having to be too strict about how we get there.
Later in the evening I got to hang out with my friend John, from Ireland. He was a long term guest at the Casa when I was working here and is now in school in el DF, working on a Masters to become a therapist. We had a great time, talking talking talking (with some eating and drinking mixed in there) for about 7 hours. One place we went was a cool restaurant/bar in Colonia Roma (the Colonias are like neighborhoods) where we had mezcal reposado, which a relative of tequilla and mezcal zarzamora, which was blackberry flavored. Delicioso!
It is wonderful to be back in el DF and at the Casa, with it's wacky cast of characters. I feel very at home here and, except for the fact that I can't wait to start this amazing walk adventure, could easily stay for many more days. However, the pollution is pretty bad right now. When I've been here in the past the air was more clear because it was right after the rainy season. My throat hurts most of the time, which is another reason I'm looking forward to starting off on the walk.
We leave for Oaxaca tomorrow morning and will be on a bus for about 7 hours . Rolene has a meeting on Thursday with Gustavo Esteva, the founder of la Universidad de la Tierra in Oaxaca. He is working with Rolene to plan a conference for Mexican environmentalists, which will go on March 19-23. Rolene and I will be somewhere in Nicaragua by then so we'll come back up to Oaxaca for that. We will be in Oaxaca City, which is another 7 hours from the coast, so I don't think I'll get to eat fish tacos...but I'll have some delicious molé so I think I'll survive. I hope to write again in the next few days. Abrazos a todos!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mexico City

Hello! I've arrived in Mexico City and will be here for 3 nights before heading to Oaxaca for a couple days and then on to Guatemala to start walking. I'm super tired and irritated by this keyboard with different keys, so I'll just say that I'm here safely and will write more soon.