Friday, September 10, 2010

the sunniest day

i could not wear pants today. it is that hot. i got ingrid out of the house today and we walked over to the 'gringolandia' part of san pedro. i´m so glad that i´ve spent two weeks here already without seeing it. exactly as the books say- the shops, restaurants, bars and cafes are completely hippiesque. everything is more expensive over there, but it was good to see that there are actually tourists here this time of year. after spending time only on the local side of the hill, i was beginning to think i was one of very few.

next week is independence day, and all the store fronts are decorating with flags and balloons. there will be a parade, probably wednesday or thursday. but i´m going to try to avoid the traffic and spend the holiday in antigua so i can meet kevin when he arrives. i am very much looking forward to next week :) the expression here is 'tengo ansias.' literally- i have anxious... but meaning an anxiety of a positive nature.

i learned many other expressions during my first week of classes, but i may look for another school or even try out some teachers that give private lessons beginning on the 20th. there are so many spanish schools here to choose from and it´s important to feel that you are getting what you`re paying for.

i have some cleaning to do this weekend, but if the weather is good ingrid and i may try to hike near volcĂ n san pedro. next week i´ll remember to bring my camera cord to upload some photos. although most days feel the same, i´m feeling more and more comfortable as i recognize faces in the streets. i can definitely understand how a person can visit this place and never want to leave...

Friday, September 3, 2010

day five in guatemala

it´s been raining since 6am today, but life here does not stop. the market is still open. construction on buildings continues, but with this weather it´s obvious why some buildings are on their third year of construction and not even half finished. today is the perfect day for writing.

ingrid is not feeling well today so i came to town to pick up some supper to bring back. we´ve been reading a lot. she´s enjoying "the girl with the dragon tatoo." i have been eating so well here, much better than i ever did at home. so ironic. and no sickness has affected me. whether luck or health, i´ll take it. ingrid has no running water in her house, but she keeps a rain barrel outside. we get all the water for washing from the rain barrel. however, i brush my teeth with filtered water from a tank. she said "you`re having a real guatemalan experience today," when i began heating up water for my shower. you have to fill a plastic tub mostly full of rain water and then add heated water to it, however much you need for warmth. it worked out fine. not ideal, but nothing i can´t get used to... and anything is worth it when you need a shower. when most of your surroundings are dirty, there´s nothing like being clean.

after that we ate an omelet with the filling of yesterday´s ratatouille inside and bread with mashed avocado and fried plantains. i´m keeping a close eye on her ways in the kitchen so i can cook with kevin in our own house when he comes next week. i´m getting used to the pace of life here... and it helps that i don´t have much to do. but the days seem so much longer because they start early, but everything is done in an order. preparation, action, cleaning, resting, and so on. tomorrow i hope that we can do some hiking. today´s plans were interrupted by the rain, which i think is coming from the tail end of a tropical storm that is headed toward florida today. there´s a coffee house that ingrid wants to take me to in the next town, and she likes to walk there even though it´s a big hike. hopefully i´ll have some photos to share of that trip when it comes. i´m preparing for my language class, which starts on monday morning. there is a banana farm behind the school and a big garden. my goals have extended to learning how to grow my own food. i think it may be a skill as useful as learning the language.

even without doing much each day, i´m giving myself time to take everything in. i´m looking forward to holding everything like a sponge... and for what i can´t hold in my mind, i´ll share with you here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

cheers to a slow year

The kitchen table in my communal house in Washington, DC is always layered with mail for previous tenants. When I find the time to cook for myself, I know I can count on someone else's newspapers, catalogs or magazines to keep me and my plate company.

This morning, hidden under the "Food Section" of the Washington Post, I found GOOD Magazine's "The Slow Issue." If you've never heard of or read GOOD Magazine, please pick up this issue at your local bookstore. I'm beginning to think (in fact, hope) that 2010 will be the year to appreciate slow living.

When I first heard this phrase, I associated it only with food and farming. However, "The Slow Issue" artfully illustrates how every aspect of our lives can be improved by simply slowing down.

"This issue is about planning not only for tomorrow, but for the next year, and the next generation. Because if progress isn't permanent, can it even be called progress at all?"

Below are a few of my favorite things from this issue, and some slow ideas of my own.

1. Make pancakes. "There's a reason pancakes exist, and that reason is to slow you down on a weekend morning: They take time to make and they sit like a brick in your stomach, which makes you slower at just about everything," says GOOD. this recipe from coconut recipes looks delicious.

2. Grow something. The folks at GOOD and ReadyMade recommend building a growing wall by cutting the tops off of empty plastic bottles, filling them will soil and fertilizer, and fastening them with wire to a fence. (Don't forget to make drainage holes in the bottom of your bottles.)

3. Disconnect yourself. schedule a few hours daily or maybe an entire day a month to forget your phone at home (even if you have to a roommate or friend hide it for you). try removing your email icon from your computer's desktop or favorites tab for a weekend. close the cabinet doors on your home entertainment center. now what? relax. read a book. take a bath. cook your dinner from scratch. do a puzzle. clean out your closet. without the interruption of instantaneous communication, you may find that there, in fact, are just enough hours in the day.

4. You can drive 55. this piece is informative, persuasive and well written. the concept of a having a national speed limit may also prove to be a catalytic conversation starter at your next neighborhood potluck. which brings me to my next point.

5. Host a potluck. scheduling a get-together around food and face-to-face conversation is a true throwback to the origins of the Slow Food Movement, which began in Italy. and if you've been there (and i have), you know that they still appreciate gathering around a table. the more people eat each others cooking, the more recipes will be shared and therefore create more inspiration to cook and enjoy the experience.

6. If you build it, they will walk. "make elevators smaller and slower." why hasn't anyone thought about this before? designing walker-friendly buildings is not only a health-conscious concept, but also opens the door a little wider for more creative architecture.

7. Slow coffee. i like this manifesto from 1000 faces coffee. if you are an active, everyday coffee drinker, put some thought into where you buy your beans. don't skimp on taste, and don't rush your brew. if you really can't find time to make it at home, look for a local coffee shop that sells a hand-pour or french pressed cup of coffee. while it's brewing, get to know your barista and learn more about the roasters they use.

8. Make a time capsule. find a container. pick a retrieval date. (give it at least a few decades.) choose your storage items- represent the present moment: personal or public but not perishable. news clips, gadgets, mementos and photos are good. have a sealing ceremony and photograph it. according to GOOD, you can also register your time capsule with the International Time Capsule Society, which originated at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta as the "Crypt of Civilization."

9. Write letters. it's not like the US Postal Service is in dire need of more business, but I bet your mailbox wishes it was getting more action. the act of letter writing truly envelopes the Slow Movement. buy some handmade stationery to support local artists. or, gasp!, make your own stationery with card stock and stamps. it is a fun activity and it takes time. when you're finished, you have a product that you can feel proud to mail to your friends. sending snail mail is a great way to bring a little meaning into your life, as well as to your recipients.

10. Walk. depending on where you live, this can mean walking for a purpose (grocery shopping) or walking aimlessly (a quiet stroll with a partner or dog). i'm not going to go into the multitude of health benefits of walking, because i hope you already know them. walking requires an awareness of one's surroundings like other activities do not. the famous and fundamental line that embodies the Slow Movement, "Stop and smell the roses," was not written from a car.