Giving Thanks, Making Peace November 25, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Colombia, El Salvador, Esperanza Project, Guatemala, Mexico, Mexico City, Travel wisdom , 5comments
MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Thanksgiving day – I awoke this morning far from home and family but filled with a profound sense of gratitude.
Grateful for the sun that was just beginning to brighten the sky outside my window; grateful for the dear friends who have given me a home in this city of cities. Grateful for the health and the support of my family, who continue to love me faithfully despite my wandering ways.
Most of all on this day, I’m grateful for the path I’ve been given this year, a path that has led me from inspiration to inspiration as I traveled from Mexico to Argentina, seeking to learn from those who are each changing our world in their own way.
The river will find a way: Voices of the victims June 3, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Guatemala , add a comment
SAN LUCAS TOLIMAN – I arrived at the home of Rony Lec of the Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute (IMAP) at 9 a.m. and found him meeting with a group of young men from Ajpu, a local youth group. The post-storm response of the government was slow and disorganized, I had heard from various people around town, and the group echoed these concerns.
Emergency food and supplies had arrived from the federal government and had been carried off by whomever happened to be around instead of being distributed in an organized and equitable way; no one had any idea how many people were homeless, and who they were; people who were not in the shelters were not being taken into account; the list of immediate problems went on.
PANAJACHEL, Guatemala – For three days I’ve been traveling the villages of Lake Atitlan, watching the slow shift from disaster to windfall.
On Saturday, we stood together in Marvilla’s kitchen at Posada Dos Volcanes in San Lucas Toliman, one of the mostly Mayan villages that ring this lake, watching in disbelief as the mountain began shedding its skin right before our eyes. What had once been a smooth green slope was now a great brown gouge.
Rain of ashes in Guatemala June 1, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Guatemala, Uncategorized , add a comment
PANAJACHEL, Guatemala – Atitlan, the sparkling lake of legends and lore, glistens a slatey grey today. Clouds drape the mountaintops on all sides; boats are making their way across, one by one, taking their places at the rickety wooden docks where they will soon be ferrying people to villages across the water.
“It’s a sad day in Guatemala,” remarks Juan, manager of Restaurante Lago Azul, where I’ve stopped in my morning walk to enjoy a cup of coffee and a hearty desayuno chapin, a traditional Guatemalan breakfast with eggs, black beans, fresh cheese and corn tortillas and crispy, sweet plantains, fried to perfection.
“Yes, it seems like the rain is going to be here for awhile,” I answered, thinking he was referring to the dreary weather.
But he wasn’t – instead, he was referring to the eruption of Pacaya Volcano yesterday just south of the capital city, which took the life of a journalist and apparently also two children.
The city is still in chaos after a rain of ash fell for miles around, with over a thousand people evacuated to shelters, traffic accidents resulting from streets and highways covered in up to three inches of ash, and air traffic diverted south to El Salvador.
Very strange. I could have very well been climbing that volcano myself this week. I was feeling very compelled to do so – and many tourists do. Instead, I got too busy with work and canceled the trip to catch up on writing assignments.
Lo que sucede, conviene, as a Cuban friend once said. I suppose this is one time where not getting my wish might have been the best thing.
Xela, Guatemala: Where the Maya meet the world May 21, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Guatemala , add a comment
QUETZALTENANGO/XELA – It’s 7:30 a.m. at Parque Central and the city is beginning to stretch and come to life. The plaza hums with the voices of students in their crisp navy uniforms and white knee socks, boys with gelled hair combed carefully into a peak, ladies in their cortes tipicas, their brightly woven traditional skirts, making their way to the market with baskets and tubs balanced on their heads. Half a dozen shoe shiners are setting up around the perimeter; one is already at work shining the shoes of a man in a suit with a distant look in his eyes.
The fog that drapes the surrounding mountains and Santa Maria volcano is giving way to bright sunlight here in Quetzaltenango/Xela, as it has every day since I’ve been here in early May. It’s rainy season, but the clouds won’t roll in until afternoon, and even then the rain is usually light and occasional.
I’m getting ready to pack my bags and move on – after two weeks it’s time to see a little more of the country – but I want to capture the essence of this delightful city in the highlands, a sprawling city that feels more like a friendly village at its heart. I don’t feel quite ready to leave, but I will be back, I tell myself. This is a place I think I could live.
Conquering Tajumulco: Me and the volcano May 17, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Guatemala , 2comments
XELA, Guatemala – At 4:45 a.m. on Saturday, eight sleepy people from five different countries showed up at Casa Argentina, bracing themselves for the adventure ahead: a two-day trek up Volcan Tajumulco, the highest point in Central America. I was among them.
The three volunteer guides from Quetzaltrekkers were going over the final details. Yesterday we had already met for a briefing and gone over the checklist for the trip. Below-zero sleeping bags? Check. Headlamps? Check. Down jackets and fleeces? Check. Rain gear, gloves, hats, thermal underwear?
Wait, I said, this was Central America, not the Andes!
Yes, but it was rainy season and our destination was 4,000 meters above sea level, where wintry conditions prevailed, especially at night and in the pre-dawn hours when we would hike to the summit of the old volcano.
Looking back at Guatemala City May 11, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Guatemala , 3comments
XELA, Guatemala -– I set off early this morning to find a café where I could work. It didn’t take long to find one as they are scattered all about the town’s historical center. Before 8 there are few businesses open, which is the main challenge; a couple of comedores are serving eggs, beans and plantains along with the blasting ranchero music, but I passed them by. The Coffee Company, by contrast, serves quiet international music and WiFi with its cappucinos and biscottis. Tomorrow I’ll make Nescafe and my own eggs in the Don Diego hostel where I’m now staying, but today I’m going to splurge, and I’m having my second latte along with a little orange-flavored pastry.
What a contrast to the capital city. I had decided to stay in the historical center, where I could get around by foot. Outside the center, I traveled by car, as middle- and upper-class Guatemalans do, to the modern, leafy zones where you could rightly confuse the landscape with that of Houston or Miami. But my experience in downtown Guate, as the locals call it, couldn’t have been different from my first few days and nights in Xela.
A Mother’s Day greeting from the Racoons May 11, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Guatemala , add a comment
Mother’s Day is celebrated here in Guatemala on the 10th of May, regardless of what day of the week it falls on. So today was the big day – and I do mean big.
It began at 6:30 am with a mobile loudspeaker blasting an upbeat blessing from the streets, mañanitas-style. That was followed by fireworks, and all day I continued to receive kisses and hugs and very sincere blessings just for the fact that I have a beautiful daughter – which is already blessing enough.
A Mother’s Day thanks to Guatemalan world changers May 11, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Guatemala , 3comments
QUETZALTENANGO, Guatemala – I awoke this sparkling Mother’s Day to the sight of the Santa Maria volcano from my rooftop, rising green and conical over the mountains that surround this charming city in the highlands. Quetzaltenango, known to Guatemalans by its indigenous name, Xela, is quite literally a breath of fresh air.
The slap-slap-slap of the ladies in the kitchen next door “tortillando,” making tortillas, is punctuated by laughter and chitchat.
Hotel Ajau: A green deal in Guatemala City May 11, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Guatemala, Sustainability , add a comment
GUATEMALA CITY – I have spent the past week making contacts, getting the lay of the land and working on freelance stories, and I couldn’t have found a better home-away-from-home here in the capital city than Hotel Ajau.
I’ll admit I chose it because I read in Rough Guides that it offered a good price, free wireless, good coffee and a nice atmosphere in the historic district. Little did I know that I had inadvertently chosen the city’s first “green” hotel – at least the first to be certified as such by Guatemala’s Green Deal organization.
Nor did I know it was the labor of love of three generations of French-Guatemalans. Three generations of the Luis Rey Tarot family have infused this elegant historic neo-colonial building (or republican, as it’s called here) with a sense of home.