Thursday, June 21, 2007


I´ve been here for something like a week. Everything has gone pretty smoothly, considering my extremely basic Spanish skills.

Every flight from Brazil to Guatemala was late. I got stuck in Miami for a night and in Guatemala City. I´d been a bit nervous about landing in Guatemala City-- with its bad reputation and all. Funny, when it came to actually getting there, I wasn´t too concerned. Big groups of missionaries with different colored shirts. I caught a ride with them in a school bus to a fancy hotel to avoid taking a taxi at night by myself. Planned on crashing with a couple of girls in one of their rooms, but things didn´t work out like that. Nice guatemalan missionary took me to a less fancy hotel and I spent a comfortable and easy night.

I met a Costa Rican guy in the ´lobby´ (more like a living room) the next morning. We hit it off great. He had a lovely hand made journal that I plan to re-create when I get back to Florida. He´s got a great system for drawing and painting on the road, and I´ll experiment with this for my next trip. He gave me a knife-- and I gave him a quarter for it. Seems that the Central Americans also believe that you should never receive a knife as a gift either.

I took a taxi to Antigua-- the cross roads town that was my original destination upon arriving in Guatemala. Hit it off with the taxi driver. My first time speaking Spanish ever. I actually did OK. We communicated and he taught me lots of new words. He told me that he was going on to Lago de Atitlan, so I decided to continue on. I broke a major travel ´rule´ and left my bag in the car with him for a couple of hours while I wandered Antigua. But he was nice and I had a good feeling about him. He met me at the designated spot and I sat in the front with him again and we continued our conversation to Lago de Atitlan.

Got out of the minibus with a couple of Spanish girls and a German guy. The German guy- Stephan-- and me got swept along with the river created by the Spanish girls and we went with them to San Marcos. Sketchy posada. Way in the back up the hill. Quiet place. Shady guys wandering the street. One of them came up to the posada and sat with us. Repeating the same things over and over again. Weird. I voted to get rid of him-- straight up. Eventually we just all went to sleep to lose him. The next day, we decided to move to San Pedro-- apparently the party central-- not of interest to me, but what the hell. When we came down to the water to take the boat out, I was stunned. It was beautiful. Deep blue lake, like a mountain lake. Surrounded by mountains and a volcano. It was hard to separate the water from the sky. I saw a young western woman drop her daughter off at school. And everything changed. I wanted to know what it was like to live there. I talked with her and decided that we should stay. I proposed it to Stephan and we decided to stay. Said goodbye to the Spanish--good I think, like I said, they were like a river. We stayed in a lovely place--La Paz-- and spent the next couple of days swimming, sun bathing, climbing on the rocks and hiking a bit back into the hills. It really was a lovely spot. But, my mind (and guilt) has been itching and I needed to go. Spent a night in San Pedro for kicks (just to give you an idea of how weird this place was: the gringo ´manager´told me, I quote: ´I haven´t been anywhere here. I just buy and consume drugs.´)

Lago de Atitlan

Stephan with a Mayan family who we met working in the mountain fields.

I left the next day for Quetzaltanago or Xela. Took the ´chicken bus´, which was uneventful, given its bad reputation. Today is my second day here and it was ultra successful. I think that I have found the perfect language school and homestay. Tomorrow I am starting my first 5 hours. Then, I´ll meet Kari in Chichi a couple of hours away and return here for my homestay. Xela seems good. I think that I will like it. 1 month? Will see.

Street scene in Xela on the way to my homestay.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Quando eu volvo eu voy o falar Portugues com voce...

Yesterday we did a trip into the interior of the region. It is possible to get too used to the beautiful coastline of Pipa.

We went to a waterfall-- that was absolutely full of water. It was a roaring brown river and I would´ve never thought of going swimming in it. Mario weren´t deterred and Rodriguez (Mario´s brother-in-law) and I followed him across the rocks into the falling water. It was refreshing-- water from the whole forest pounding on us.

Next was the Mouth Rock (Pedra da Boca). Lovely green landscape dotted with huge granite stones. We hired a local guide-- a good example of how traditional ethnobotany knowledge can be used in sync with the formation of a conservation area-- who was an expert of medicinal and other useful plants in the area. We climbed almost straight up the side of the rock and were just in time for the sunset. It was a perfect day. The rain only rained when we weren´t outside. And the group vibe was muito bom.

Pedra da boca (mouth rock). We climbed to the top of an adjacent rocks to check out the view.

Mario and Roberto left me today to go on a 3-day surf trip. I´m leaving in a few hours for the airport. This was my first day in Brazil alone-- can you believe this? I had a really good time, exploring the rocks, huge sand dunes, changing light, and waves-- climbing up and down the shore that ranges from beach to sharp rocks to vertical cliffs.

Just a comment about change (from Mario):
Change is neccessary to feel life. For example, if I put my hand on your arm, you feel the difference. If I leave it there for a while, you get used to the feeling. When I take my hand away, you feel different. Those different feelings are to remind you that you are living life.

I said good bye to everyone and I will spend my last few hours in Pipa in the hammock at the lovely pousada [].

Ciao ciao e beijos Brazil!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tudo bom, tudo bem

At this moment I am holding down the fort of the recepçao of my pousada while Mario and Roberto go surfing (in the rain). I am armed with my few phrases in Portugues. In exchange I get to use the internet. Just this morning I was cruising on the back of an off road motorcycle along the amazing coastline into town about 15 kms away. Life is funny, isn´t it?

Pipa coastline e os surfistas.

I´m on my own again-- all of my ´Floridians´ have finally left me. But I´m with new friends, of course. Its my transition period while I prepare myself to jump countries again. More in Guatemala....

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Vivi and Ane taught me about Joaninha. When it is raining, you make a figure out of paper while thinking about Joaninha and invite her to hang out with you. Ask her to bring the sun (trais o sol), because wouldn´t this beautiful day be more fun with sunshine? Feed her and include her in your activities (like eating crabs and drinking beer by the water). As we walked down the beach in the rain, I picked up a handful of white wet clay. It shaped itself easily into the figure of a mermaid and dried with the sun. Joaninha from Pipa.

Ane and Joaninha

Its the end of environmental/multicultural week here in Pipa. We participated in a jungle walk in the Atlantic forest (behind Pipa) -- which barely remains in Brazil anymore. There were also educational activities for kids, trash pick up, bicycle races etc. Last night lots of music in the streets. An accordian orchestra, a man in a rainbow ´traditional´outfit with a beautiful baratone voice and acoustic guitar, a painter-- also in a rainbow outfit, plenty of salsa-like dancers in the crowd, capoiera (of course), brass bands, string quartet etc. Brazilians love their music.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Pipa, Brazil

Third week in Brazil. Where has the time gone?

I´m in Pipa. A lovely little beach town south of Natal. Mario-- the once-Paulista who owns the place-- has a wonderful paradise life. Over many years, little bit by little bit. He gathered some land and drew in his family. His mother planted all of the trees in the garden and has made it a refuge for huge toads, black geckoes, hummingbirds, and darling little marmasets (with children!) who ask for bananas and other tree fruits. Mario said to me the other day: "We just grew here with the trees. Can you believe that there are some people in this world who haven´t ever planted a tree?"

Garden of Pomar da Pipa. Our rooms are in the back.

Motorcycle ride with Mario along the cliffside coastline and around a sandy island, thru the cornfields. Lovely!

The first two weeks in Brazil I was in a Tropical Forestry course. There are too many stories to share from this time. So maybe as I think of them I will write them.

Drilling a hole in a tree for oil collection-- traditional method.

The jackamee (black bird in the center). Thought he was a person, mistaken for a soccer ball-- he followed us into the forest and around camp. Our little mascot for the first week.

The Amazon river-- It blew my mind. Imagine the biggest river that you can imagine and double this. No, triple this. No end in sight. Add some waves, a tide, sandy beach and a storm in the distance moving across the wide blue sky like a grey sheet.

The second week we were at a riverine community in Mazagao. Swinging in hammocks on the second floor porch with a great view. My favorite place to sleep-- where you can watch the rain fall and the sun rise with no problems. I loved the mornings best. Just as the sun rises and reflects on the wet sand and river. Parrots flying from their roosting sites. Dolphins passing by slowly sometimes.
Our daily boat ride to visit houses in Mazagao. The roof was the best-- we could see 360 degrees all around with the luxury of clean, fresh air.

Group photo in the forest of Mazagao. Notice the Brazilian woman standing to my right-- she was the most fit and strongest woman I have ever met. She ran her entire forest-garden on her own.