Monday, January 18, 2010

In honor of MLK Jr., This:

"Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. . .You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." --MLK Jr.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Every morning I dream of Coq-a-Vin

If I have learned anything from this trip, it's that roosters don't say "cock-a-doodle-doo" or "coq-a-ri-co" or even "keek-a-ree-kee." They say, "I hate you. You will never sleep again" and they say it ALL DAY LONG.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Just a moment

I am waiting for a handsome man to cook me my Tipofo breakfast of scrambled eggs, refried black beans, avocado, and fried plantains while I listen to a man hawking platanos at 7:30 in the morning by riding around town in the back of a pickup yelling "borato!" through a bull horn.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Tengo Sueño

Last night I dreamt that I was in the belly of a whale. I entered through its mouth and rode deep into the back of its throat. Its tongue was pink. I rode by its tonsils. They looked like party balloons. When I was deep inside its stomach, it was salty and I was not afraid.

Yesterday I broke some basic rules of traveling. I went into a new country by myself with no map, no guidebook, not even the name of a hostel where I could stay. I had the stupid idea of getting to "a beach," but I didn´t know which one. I found myself after dark on a bus leaving San Salvador towards a city that I knew nothing about, hoping to find a hotel where I could at least have access to the internet and find out where I was. I could not have told you what direction I was going in. It was stupid, and even though I kept telling myself that this was one of the stupidest things I had ever done and that I would never ever do it again, some little dark corner of my mind knew that I was full of shit, that I would absolutely do it again because I secretly liked it, that whatever was going to happen was going to be something that had never happened before.

On the bus, I sat next to a girl my age and we talked about what you´re supposed to talk about: I am from California, but I was born in Georgia. I am 29. I do not have children. I am not married. I have a boyfriend. I am traveling for 6 weeks. My boyfriend is working. I started my trip in Guatemala. I am leaving in a week a half. I do not know how long I will be in El Salvador. (I never get tired of asking or being asked these questions). But then the conversation changed into "Where are you going to stay?" and "Aren´t you scared?" and I told her that yes, I was scared, but that it wasn´t usually like this. When I asked her if she knew of any hotels in Son Sonate, where she was from, she told me "the only hotels I know of are hourly hotels." Then she offered to let me stay with her family. I hesitated and she said "if you trust me, then you can stay with me, but if you don´t, you don´t have to." In Spanish, to say you trust someone you say "Tengo confianza en ella" or "I have trust in her." Except "confianza" can mean three things: confidence, trust, or familiarity. I said yes, not because I was scared to look for my own hotel or because I was afraid of hurting her feelings, but because I knew it would be something I might not have the chance to do again.

So I went home with the girl on the bus. She was short and had red hair, pale skin, and freckles. She wore dark eyeliner and tight jeans like any run-of-the-mill Indie hipster in Oakland. One of the first questions she asked me was whether or not I used bronzing powder. The bus ride took about an hour, and while I was staring out the window, Rosalba was staring at me. We walked through dark streets to her mother´s house and we ate tamales that tasted like hot dogs and had bones in them. Her dog´s name was Beethoven, after the movie. She brought over friends and family and they laughed at my broken Spanish and were rightfully concerned by my stupidity at traveling alone after dark in a country that I knew nothing about. After they left, she and I talked about our novios and how handsome Leonardo Di Caprio is (she had a small picture of him hanging over her bed). We slept in twin beds in a pink room like she and her sisters had done when she was a kid. My bed had clean, thick white sheets, and I slept through the roosters and the dogs barking and the little kid with the air horn walking up and down the street all morning. Each was just the beginning of another dream.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stories from Guatemala

A few things I want to write about. They are not chronological. I didn't have time to proofread, either.

*I forfeited watching the sun rise of the pyramids of Tikal this morning (and paying $35 for it) in order to take a hot shower. I'm in the northern part of Guatemala at the ruins of Tikal. There are only three hotels in the 122 square mile park, and I forked over $40 to have my own hotel room and my own private bath with, yes, hot water in the morning from 6 am to 9 am. Forty dollars here is more than I usually spend in a day, sometimes two. My favorite hostals have only cost $4 a night. So I am living in luxury for a day. I had a fresh strawberry milkshake with my dinner last night.

*A few days ago, I was dropped off in what felt like the middle of nowhere at a hostal with no internet and no hot water either. We had electricity from 6 to 10 at night in a little open air pavilion with tables around it where we all ate dinner together. Afterward, we danced salsa in the middle with the guys who worked there. During the day we swam in a series of limestone pools that drop into one another or we went into caves holding candles that we had to hold above the water while we swam from room to room. I came down with a little bit of a cold and stayed an extra day.

*Last week, I was in Xela, a supposedly "European" city surrounded by volcanoes, but really it was full of exhaust and trash. I didn't like it, and it was really spoiled for me when, in the middle of the day on a busy street, a man came up behind me and put both his arms around me tightly, like he knew me. He wasn't drunk and he didn't grab my small backpack I was carrying. I think he was just fucking with me. I pushed him off of me, yelling at him. It sucked. I've lived in Oakland, I've lived in bad neighborhoods of San Francisco. I know how not to get my wallet stolen, how to live in a neighborhood alongside drug dealers and prostitutes, and how to say "no" to an aggressive beggar, but I felt like a target in Xela. I left early. I felt like it was a matter of time before something fucked-up happened to me there. I liked leaving.

*Guatemala makes me feel like I work for OSHA. I am constantly thinking "that is dangerous!" My grandpa would have had a field day here pointing out all of the dangers. I, too, want to put handrails everywhere. I stood on the edge of a very very very steep temple this morning, 1000 feet up, and could have easily fallen to my death. Last week I climbed an active volcano. People roasted marshmallows over the open coals. Big hot rocks were tumbling down the mountain a few feet from us. Chicken buses take turns so sharply they go up on two wheels. Let's go jump off this slippery cliff into the water!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I have not written for months because, well, I didn't feel like it. This field has been lying fallow. Now I am in Guatemala on a six week trip through the country, and I feel like writing again. Here we are. Here are some things I want to tell you, somebody, anybody:

*Guatemalans get around on old US school buses that have been painted bright colors and christened with names like "Gracias A Dios" which are painted above the front window. The drivers play loud reggaeton and drive them much much much faster than Mr. Stackhouse (my old busdriver) ever did. Most of the riders on the bus are Mayan women who carry large bundles on their heads.

*How cool is it that there is a country where the majority of the population wears its traditional dress? Seriously. How cool is that? The indigenous population wins my World's Best Dressed award. None of these folks are intentionally or inadvertently wearing some some trickle-down runway fashion from a few years ago. When a Mayan wears a poncho, it's because her mama and grandmama and great-grandma did, and because she probably wove the cloth herself! And to make things even cooler, each region and town has its own particular design that they weave so families wear similar outfits, like the Scotish used to do with their tartans in the olden days. Everyone looks great, too. There is little better in the world than a 4-foot tall, seventy-year old woman in pigtails. Mostly women wear the traditional dress, but I have seen a few men wearing hot pink woven trousers and vest with gold thread. Google it. I like riding the "chicken buses" because I can check out the variety of cool outfits. If it weren't insulting for a Gringa to wear Mayan clothes, I'd definitely sport a huipul.

*As much as I like checking out the Mayans's suave outfits, Mayan kids like ogling my lip piercing. First they look at me out of curiosity, but when they notice the fake diamond on my lip, they all look shocked. They tug on their Mom's skirt and point. I never stare back, but I do keep my face turned in their direction just to let them get a good look.

*Yesterday I began my Spanish lessons. I'm staying in Quetzaltenango, or Xela, with a Guatemalan woman in her seventies and her daughter and three grandsons. Gloria feeds me well and is insulted that I only ate three pancakes for breakfast. Today I am going to my first ever yoga class in Spanish. Yesterday I bought three copies of Cosmopolitan en Español from the mid-1990s at a used bookstore. Eventhough my Spanish isn't good enough to really understand exactly what the article is saying, since all women's magazines basically just recycle stories every six months, I understand a lot more than I would otherwise. I can't really bring them in to school though, since I'd feel a little uncomfortable asking my (male) teacher to help me translate "Six Sex Secrets You Really Need to Know."

Thursday, June 18, 2009


It's done. I finished my MA Thesis, packed up my car, and now I'm here in Big Sur. I've been here for over a month now. All I do is read, play the guitar, go to work, and drink martinis. I have never been happier.

I'd like to say that I'll write more soon, but we'll see.

...Oh, you know I will.