Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I found my other blog...

...and I've decided to transform it into something else. There was only one entry so I'm storing it here with the rest of my reflective writings. It's a novel. It was supposed to be the first of a handful of writings about our trip to Guatemala last summer, but it still stands alone. Maybe I'll dig up my travel journal and pick up where I left off.

Friday, August 29, 2008
Guatemala 2008

We’ve been back for a couple of weeks. The trip is beginning to feel more and more like a dream to me. Everything is beginning to get a little fuzzy, which is why I am writing all of this down now, before my memory escapes me. For me Guatemala was an incredibly positive experience. Beautiful. Rich. It was Holy and difficult. Difficult? Yes, at times it was extremely challenging, but the challenge and the act of being stretched to the limit at times is what gave this experience such deep value. I am speaking only for myself though, understanding that my experience was not the experience of some of my friends who shared in this particular adventure.
For some “home” couldn’t come soon enough. People were tired and tattered from the seemingly endless days and sometimes nights of trekking through valleys and over mountains. One hike after another would lead to one unexpected problem to the next; a giant domino effect of misfortune. A broken ankle, some broken spirits, and a lot of broken trust made it difficult for some to see below the surface of all the discomfort people were experiencing.
Needless to say, this was not an easy trip. I experienced fatigue and frustration just like the rest of the team. And I spent the latter half of the trip sick with diarrhea, but it’s all part of the package of being in a foreign country. I signed up for this and never regretted it for a single moment.
This trip was probably the most physically demanding experience of my life so far. But it was freeing and I have been in desperate need to experience even a taste of freedom from comfortable day-to-day living in Pasadena. For the first time I felt the necessity and joy in shedding some of the extra baggage that I carry as a privileged American. All of the comforts of being clean and dry and safe were not at our disposal like they are here in the states. But I learned that there are very few comforts that I actually need. Sometimes these comforts are only weights that slow us down. In fact the more I tried to hold on to them the tougher it was to make it through the difficult times. I was being taught surrender.
I figure that I will write about the trip story by story when I feel inspired or when something jogs my memory. These stories will most likely not be in chronological order…but I am hoping share a lot of what happened with all of you. Enjoy!

Do as the Locals Do…translates into Wear What the Locals Wear…Especially on Your Feet:

The rain was pouring down and we were walking through stretches of cow pasture, through the mud and shit. We were ankle deep in the stuff. We had been for a while now. I brought bad shoes. Sandals in fact. Keens to be more specific. And Keens are not made for this kind of terrain, nor are they made for women who have narrow feet. I have very narrow feet. It was at this point that I started to think about going barefoot the rest of the way. I pictured myself pitching these damned shoes into the jungle as hard as I could. They flew fast into the trees. I’ve always had a good arm. I throw like a boy. At least that’s what I’ve been told. Anyway, I decided against that idea because they were my only pair of shoes and I hadn’t seen any of the locals going barefoot. They were all wearing black rubber boots. I wanted their black rubber boots. “Do as the locals do,” is a concept that I have complete confidence in now. Next time.
I remember before this point in the journey I was carefully stepping to the side of the muddy path, trying as hard as I could to avoid the sludge. This was partly because I had sandals on but I HATE the mud. I’ve always hated it. Even when I played soccer in high school: everyone LOVED playing in the rain because of the mud. They would slide tackle and then rub mud all over their arms and faces, chasing each other and throwing mud at each other like it was a snowball fight. I don’t mind snowball fights. We took pictures at the end of rainy day games because everyone would be so damned dirty and that made for a good and funny group shot. I would be the only clean one. Sparkling…and even though it LOOKED as if I sat the bench it was never the case…I was simply determined not to get muddy. I thought about this every few steps when there was no avoiding the sludge. My foot sunk in deep and emerged with no shoe. “This is going to be a long and frustrating walk,” I thought. By the time we got to the cow pasture it was like we were walking through swamps. I decided that I should get used to it sooner rather than later for my own sake.
God only knows how much beauty I missed because my eyes were scanning the muddy ground for the “cleanest” place to step. Next time I will get some of those rubber boots. As for my Keens…I thought about trashing them. You know…burning them or something. But my mother-in-law told me that she had been looking for shoes like mine only she didn’t want me to be irritated by her copying me. Ha! I gave them over happily and with a strict warning that they are not to be worn for hiking in tropical mountainous places. She was very happy to receive and I was even happier to give those suckers up. Live and learn.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Erik and I visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium during our road trip in October. It's amazing to think about how there is a whole other world beneath the surface of the ocean. They have a Sea Horse exhibit that is absolutely mind blowing. Those little guys look like the creatures of fairy tales!