Mindscraps: Mourning for the Maya

Hector Tobar of the L.A. Times just published For Maya, A Paradise Lost. After reading the article, I’m left with a strong desire to help do something for these immigrants. Having lived 8 months in Guatemala, the country and its Mayan people hold a most special place in my heart. I’m not sure what I can do yet, but I’m posting this article as a reminder to myself to come up with something. There are no words to describe the love I have for Guatemala – so magical, so beautiful. It pains me to know that relatives of those who have welcomed me so warmly in their native land are suffering so much in my native land.

The article just briefly describes the country’s beauty:

He spent the first 27 years of his life in the town of San Pedro de la Laguna, which sits alongside the cool waters of Lake Atitlán, in a vast highland valley surrounded by three volcanoes. Patches of corn cover the hillsides like a quilt. For American and European backpackers, it’s a vision of paradise on Earth.

See for yourself. A couple of hundreds of pictures I have from that stunning country:

“Laura Rico” Debuts in Guate Film

Check out the trailer for Aqui Me Quedo… you just might see a familiar face… for a whole 2 seconds!! Hahaha

The project was filmed while I was living in La Antigua, Guatemala:

[youtube]qyscZuuVX80[/youtube]

Mind Scraps: Admiting the Lesser and Doomed to Burn

Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman is one of the books I’m currently reading. I take it in small doses, trying to fully ingest and understand the complex messages woven throughout it’s plot. I definitely recommend it.

As I was reading the other day, I copied some quotes that really hit home with me. Below are the quotes, followed by anecdotes and explanations of how I apply those quotes to my own life and personal experiences. Through thees anecdotes, much more of my own personal story comes out. Be prepared for another infamous Laura Rico blog novel:

“…that barking dog inside me wouldn’t let up.”

Just the night before I read this I was trying to explain the same sentiment to the Bruja. “When things happen and my mind kicks into overdrive, overanalyzing – wanting to fly with thoughts that I know are not of any value – I feel I truly am getting better at recognizing that and confronting my mind; telling it to quiet down, accept what is, and peacefully move forward with a clear understanding and acceptance of what is. But lately, I feel I can calm my mind yet it’s my heart that’s not leaving me in peace.” Something is nagging at me. I don’t know what it is… And, since it’s my heart, I’m eager to figure this out. While I recognize the mind can fly with nonsense, the heart is what I listen to. It’s my elected guide. There’s a thorn pricking me in the heart. It doesn’t hurt. It pricks just enough to let me know it’s there. I feel it’s trying to tell me I’m supposed to be doing something… but I don’t know what that “something” is.

“It was if I’d been wandering, lost in a forest, then stumbled back onto the path.”

When I went back to the States for two months this last December, I felt lost. Lost deep in the forest. I didn’t know which direction to go. My heart told me it was not time for me to stop my global “pilgrimage” but money and lack of work was trying to convince me otherwise. I went so far as the unthinkable, I started applying for big, serious full-time jobs. Jobs that would lock me into place. Jobs that would *violently pluck me from my global pilgrimage, and place me back into a world I that I no longer knew. Gasp! I applied for about 10 positions before I stopped and said ‘No. This isn’t what’s next for me. I know it.’ Even though I have a solid portfolio, with prior international clients such as John Deere, New Holland, Monsanto, Pepsi and the Indy Racing League, nothing bit anyway. Okay, life’s reassuring me. This is not what’s next for me. But I was feeling extremely frustrated. At age 21, I mused, I was offered a job where I’d earn $60,000 a year. Seriously, no joke. And now, I can’t scrape together a $1,000 a month?

****

I was a hair breadth’s away from taking that job. I mean, what 21-year-old wouldn’t take a $60,000 job? The offer is unheard of… turning it down would be insane! My current client at the time had an event for me to cover in Germany. Because I had some free time after the event, I had been planning to backpack Europe. I asked the client to reserve my return flight from the event for three additional weeks later. My actual idea was to travel even longer, using Couchsurfing along the way, but I had never backpacked Europe before, so I set this flight up as a kind of “safety flight,” a way home should I need it. Until then, my only experience abroad had been a family-stay in Bergamo, Italy arranged by my university as I studied Italian one July. All this was in place when negotiations for the $60,000 job started. As I began considering the position, I stuck to the idea of at least the three weeks of travel, explaining to the company representatives that my start date would be after the already scheduled return flight from Europe. The company said they had no problem with that. Yet, as thing progressed, and we were about to close the deal, the representatives began asking me if I might be able to start working in Europe while I was there. Or, if they paid to change my flight, would I be willing to come back early and get started. WAA WAA WAA. A huge, red warning flag went off in my head. ‘I was honest and clear with them from the start,’ I rationed. ‘These few weeks would be my last weeks of true freedom to travel like I’ve always dreamed of for the next several years and they want it to cut it short??! They want to take that from me??! When I’m just about to dedicate at least a couple years to their company??!’ That’s when it clicked. It would be like that while I worked for them. The company would come first, no matter what. My own needs, things that would give me refreshing breaths of rejuvenating air that would ultimately then lead me to do a better job for them, would constantly be denied, forced to the back burner. I had solid work as it was with my current client, work that sent me traveling around the U.S. and now abroad even. I wasn’t making $60G, but for the way I lived I was making much more than enough. And, I was working the equivalent of two weeks out of every month. I had two weeks of freedom every month! Enough money to pay my living costs and then some to travel on and two weeks of freedom each month? I was in a very strong position… so I did the unthinkable: I turned down the $60G job, at the ripe, young age of 21. What happened next is, well, when life truly started revealing it’s magic to me. Since then I’ve traveled to more than 22 countries in Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America. One year alone I hit 12 countries. Can you imagine? Many of my experiences have been blogged, but much has been left out. Yet now, more than ever, I feel it’s time to start telling it all. The magic and the “locura de Laura”.

****

Back to being lost in the forest. It’s been more than two years since I last worked with that client I mentioned above. I’m so grateful for the time I worked with them. They represented a crucial bridge for me, one that enabled me to truly make the switch and adopt this crazy, nomadic life I now live. Eventually, we had to separate though. Even though the relationship I had with them offered an unimaginably amazing flexibility, I felt working with them was still holding me back from reaching yet a more profound magic in this life. A magic I felt from the inside out that I was meant to experience and know. I had saved up a little more than $10,000 in just three months. That was plenty for me to travel on for awhile. I made it 8 months, exploring/living in Honduras, Guatemala and Spain before I started getting worried about the funds. And in Spain my Nikon D50 finally corroded enough on the inside – thanks to my adventures across humid terrain and over sand dunes – and it died. In February of 2008, I went back the U.S. thinking to get a job there. On day two, I knew I couldn’t stay in the States. Please don’t misinterpret my sentiments. It’s not that I can’t stand the U.S. I just can’t stand to be where I know I’m not supposed to be and with every fiber of my body I knew I was not supposed to be staying in the States. So, with a 0% offer on a credit card, I did something I swore I would never do and accrued my first credit card debt in order to by a new pro camera – Nikon D300, this one would be more weather proof! With just $1,000 cash to my name and a shiny new deficit, I flew back to Honduras with the ultimate plan to make my way back to La Antigua, Guatemala. I was nervous but confident I would find solid enough work. I mean, hadn’t I already been offered a $60K job. Didn’t I just save up $10,000 in three months? It will all work it this time too… I’m sure of it!

One month in Honduras before I made it to Guate. Somehow, and I don’t know how, I still had much of my $1,000. But arriving in Guate, it was now my computer that died a horrible death. A sinking feeling in my stomach. But, I had no choice but to go into more credit card debt. Another 0% credit card offer. Yes, I agree. Credit card debt IS the devil. But, I felt I had no choice. I needed both a professional camera and computer to do my work.

Honestly though, in Guatemala, I never had any real solid work. It was frustrating. A local magazine paid me less than what a local shoe shiner could make, even though I had the most articles published in the magazine each month and I was the ONLY writer who would do Spanish interviews and translate them to turn an English written article. I got burned on so many projects, where I’d start the work and never get paid or get constantly prodded and pushed to do more work than was agreed upon in the contract for no additional money. The experience was a great learning lesson about the realities of trying to work in developing countries to say the least. ‘I’m a serious professional!’ I would bemoan. ‘What is going on??’ Again, it was an extremely frustrating time for me. Yet, somehow the months piled up – 7 to be exact – and in the midst of all that, the experiences, life lessons and magic that happened… wow… I’m still talking incessantly about it. Everyone here in Mexico says I’m obsessed with Guatemala, that I’m really Guatemalan, not a Gringa. I say I’m “mundana,” or “from the world.” I don’t like to define myself by one place, I say. Either way, Guatemala and my time there seems to have affected me most profoundly yet.

Anyway, I made it seven months mostly thanks to amazing people who provided much of my living needs in exchange for ‘keeping me around.’ I’m most humbled by the abundant generosity I received while there. The few paying projects I did manage to scrounge up, would never have been enough to make it seven months in Guatemala. Yet, somehow I was there for seven gloriously transformative months.

The time will come to share everything about Guatemala, but not yet. I’m still not ready to share all that yet.

So finally, we come full circle back to my two months where I find myself yet again in the States. Yet again, I feel I’m not supposed to stay. The failing attempt to find a “real” job confirms that. The failure stung. The frustration continues. And again, the call to hit the road turns from a nagging sensation into one that burns. ‘But how??!!!’ I kept questioning the burn. ‘No solid work. No money. Lots of debt!’ Yet, I know better than to ask ‘how.’ I’ve already learned, time and time again, that life really does deliver in the most mysterious ways. It’s foolish to ask ‘how’ because often we haven’t learned enough to even imagine the ‘how’ that life will use to deliver our needs. I knew this, but I couldn’t seem to truly embody it, in the moment, with all the frustration I was feeling. So, I turned to the great ones and plunged myself into some inspiring quotes I had stockpiled along my journeys. My spirit and faith largely rejuvenated, the next day life started working its mysterious magic… yet again.

Thursday night was salsa night at a local club in downtown Kansas City. I was eager to go so I convinced an old friend from college to go with me. There, we met to Mexicans from Chihuahua. One was a marine and lived in KC, the other was his younger brother, my age, who was visiting. I ended up including the younger brother on various day and night outings with other friends for the remainder of his stay in KC. In return, he fed me the bug to go to Chihuahua. “The Copper Canyon,” he explained, “is just the kind of thing you’d love. National Geographic style. It’s bigger than the Grand Canyon.”

My heart jumped. But, my mind nagged ‘you’ve got zilch. No cash. No job. Silly, foolish Laura.’

I investigated anyway. That’s when I started reading about the Rarámuri and then the oh-so-elusive Caballo Blanco, the strange Gringo that organized an ultra marathon at the bottom of these canyons; giving foreigners who dared trek there the chance to run with the mystical Rarámuri. Ooooo… I was getting seriously hooked: venturing deep into the remote canyons of Northwestern Mexico to encounter a remarkably preserved indigenous culture with what was described as a near god-like ability to run?! This is one adventure with my name written all over it! I read on and Caballo’s real name was revealed: Micah True. Gasp! My heart skipped a beat. ‘I have emails from Micah in my inbox as we speak!’ I marveled. An ultra athlete friend of mine (who I met through Couchsurfing btw) started organizing an ultra marathon in Nicaragua two years ago. Both years, I’ve written articles about the race, Fuego y Agua, to help him promote the project. Thus, I was in the Fuego y Agua email list serve… and so was Micah. (No need to change Micah/Caballo’s name – he already has.) I petitioned my friend to send an email officially introducing us online. The next thing I knew, I was back on the bus… headed to Mexico. I mean, since I made ZILCH for an entire year, I did get some tax money back. Not much… but something to go on. Wink. Wink.

Honestly, it’s been tough to admit all this, where I’m at financially and with work. I’m always the one that’s had the early success, that’s had it all together. Well… right now… I admit finally, pubically on this blog… that I don’t. For more than two years now, I haven’t had any real solid work. For a while that was purposeful, as I was simply traveling around using my $10K. But for about a year and a half, it’s all been a huge struggle. And yet, I still keep giving away lots of my work for free. That’s another theme I’ll be tackling soon…

And here we are… in Northwestern Mexico. I have some large gaps still to fill… Anyway, when I read this quote the other day – you know the one above that inspired this entire monologue – it hit home. I was lost in the forest yet again, while back in the States. Now, I feel I’ve somehow stumbled back onto the path. And life is carrying me forward even if I still have no idea where the path is headed. I don’t have much by the way of funds. But hey, just as I so assuredly profess to so many I encounter along the way, “You can do it! Don’t get caught up in the ‘hows.’ Just start by putting one foot in front of the other. Before you know it, you’ll be amazed by what dreams and desires you’ve achieved and by how far you’ve gone!”

That faith is fueled by the next quote that I wish to share:

“When one is willing and eager the gods join in.”

Immensely reassuring and comforting. Not to say the ‘gods’ will make it easy on you. Shortly after reading such inspiring words I was startled by the next message that hit home:

“What is to give light must endure burning.” (~Viktor Frankl)

Ouch. But true. I’ve learned that time and time again. My experiences with the Niño-Hombre represent the most recent example where I poignantly felt that “burn” while “giving the light.” Story to come soon…

But first, more comforting words after learning I’m doomed to burn:

“To a starving man, God is bread.” (~Ghandi)

Then some thought-provoking words:

“Healing is a matter of time, but sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”

Finally, some direct instructions:

“a barefoot walk in the surf.”

I can’t express how much I’ve been longing for the sea lately. On several occasions while here in Chihuahua, I’ve explained to others that one doesn’t need another person to find romance in life. “Go to the sea,” I tell them. “Feel the suave caress of the ocean breeze on your cheek, the playfully tickling massage the sand gives to your bare feet, the warming glow from the sun. Listen to the soothing crash of the waves. Taste the sweet, cool kiss from a coconut. Now tell me, that’s not romance.” I need to get to the sea. I need that ‘barefoot walk in the surf.’

Hunger Bytes! Winners go to Guatemala

This years winners of the 2010 Hunger Bites! World Food Program video contest are heading to Guatemala to raise awareness about the country’s underfed population. A recent drought has exacerbated the Guatemalan hunger crisis…

Two aspiring filmmakers from Mexico, the grand prize winners of an annual video competition held by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to raise awareness of the world’s one billion hungry, are heading to Guatemala to highlight the plight the drought-ridden country’s people.

Carlos Antonio Michel Sandoval and Miguel Angel Mier Delgado of Zacatecas were chosen in the over-18 category by a panel of judges that included Drew Barrymore, actress and WFP Ambassador Against Hunger, Steve Grove, Head of YouTube News and Politics, and Nancy Roman, Director of Communications, Public Policy and Private Partnerships at WFP…

He and Mr. Sandoval will now try out their filmmaking skills in Guatemala, which has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and whose severe food crisis has recently been worsened by prolonged drought.

WFP is planning to assist almost a quarter of a million people in the Central American nation with life-saving food rations over the next 5 months.(UN News Centre)

Winning video:

In some places in the world, starvation isn’t a fad or a choice:

Dreams
by Carlos Antonio Michel Sandoval and Miguel Angel Mier Delgado

[youtube]2rK58u54tCw[/youtube]

Under 18 contest winner:

Today’s Special: A most delicate morsel of cardboard. This delectable entree stands alone.

Dinner is Served!
by John Beck

[youtube]CCVGccp9ybE[/youtube]

I personally find the video from this finalist most powerful:

Baby Arcade Game
Shweta & Abhyuday Pradhan

[youtube]12zHEN4nsgI[/youtube]

Fair Trade Honey in Guatemala

Coffee is the fair trade commodity of choice in Guatemala, but the Tennesean reports that some university students are aiming to broaden the spectrum of fair trade goods produced in Guatemala. An excerpt from Entrepreneurship Can Help Rebuild Communities by Jeff Cornwall:

The town of Chajul, located in the mountainous region of Quiche in northern Guatemala, suffered some of the most brutal violence of the country’s 30-year civil war. Its predominantly indigenous community continues to be one of the most economically distressed in Guatemala.

The Belmont students, led by College of Business Administration faculty Jose Gonzalez and Marieta Velikova, traveled to Chajul earlier this year and worked with the farmers who are seeking to diversify away from their reliance on coffee by adding fair trade honey production.

What started as a small initiative to support coffee farmers is beginning to have a major impact on the economic and social development in the region.

The students are now seeking funding from a social innovation competition sponsored by Dell to fund expansion of the project. They also want to use the funding to support the expansion of a micro-loan fund.

Funding from the competition is based on votes at this Web site: http://www.dellsocialinnovationcompetition.com/ideaList?lsi=3.

Some 85 percent of the population of Quiche lives on less than $2 a day. Creating a more efficient opportunity for revenue growth for a cooperative that is a central part of the community will greatly improve the livelihood of the honeybee farmers, their families and the community.

Given the depths of this recession, we need to help entrepreneurs around the globe once again thrive. Small business growth is the key to rebuilding communities that have been devastated by unemployment.

Waiting

In this technology-driven world of globalization, waiting can often be considered as a negative, as synonymous with unproductive and lazy. But in less developed parts of the world, waiting is simply a fact of life. Waiting for the bus, waiting in line… just waiting. And, when surrounded by the rustic beauty characteristic of developing nations, waiting is a gift. It is a precious moment in the day where you can meditate, reflect and appreciate.

Limited Edition Photograph
Only 30 photographic reproductions of this image are available.

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Bienvenidos Colonial

Peeking through gates and doorways to glimpse the ornate courtyards that lie within is one La Antigua’s of many charms. The beauty and grandeur of each unique colonial expression never fails to make you catch your breath…

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Introducing Mind Scraps

I keep coming back to this idea of posting every day. Still working on making it stick. I tend to have two posting seasons: flood season and dry season. Ha. But, after discovering the journal entries from my first trip abroad in Italy (which I just published in Unearthing Firsts), I am once again inspired to make another go. As a professional writer who hopes to one day publish a book I really should commit myself to writing at least scraps of my daily thoughts and experiences. Even if there are days where I’m offline, I need to commit to jotting something down and posting when I regain internet access. These little so-called scraps are just too invaluable. They bring old, nearly-forgotten memories back to life. They reveal how much one has changed… or, perhaps, hasn’t. And, writing helps sort my own thoughts.

Thus, I’d like to present:

Mind Scraps
Daily notes from the life of Laura McNamara.

I’ve hit a slump in living out my own professed philosophies. I’m dishing out the advice… but, at this life juncture, can I really say I’m living it?

I am the risk-taker. I am the free-spirit. I am the go-getter. I embody the essence of can.

Yet, right now, I don’t feel I’m living up to these personas I’ve developed for myself, these traits that I claim. I’m feeling bound, trapped, limited.

After spending eight months in Central America, I came back to a weakened American economy. The endeavor to find any real stable work has, thus far, been fruitless. In my frustration, I’ve begun to open myself to terms I know I don’t want. Letting the economy force my hand so to speak. Strike one. I should not be settling for anything less than what I desire from life. I should not be selling myself short. Up until today, I was near ready to.

With little resources, I’ve succumbed myself to waiting. Strike two. To wait is against everything I believe in. Of course, I’ve been actively pursuing leads for work, sending out applications and portfolios – in every which direction it feels like. But, as of yet, nothing solid has materialized. So… I wait? Ack! No!

To forge on would mean more risk than ever since I have no disposable income right now and certain bills to pay. But I’m the risk-taker am I not? Is this not one of my featured quotes on Facebook?

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” -Steve Jobs Continue reading “Introducing Mind Scraps”

Colonial Courtyard

Step beyond the shadow of the arch and escape – escape to another time, to another place.

The Spanish colonial courtyards of La Antigua Guatemala all beckon, yet each boasts its own unique personality. Which is right for you?

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Mayan Vista

Imagine a world where even life’s chores are rich experiences meant to be merrily anticipated and appreciated. It is a romantic idea of the Mayan life, but, for me, this frozen moment paints an idea of little want yet much wealth. The daily duties of life are not kept within the confines of a manufactured standard. Rather, they are left for the open air – before a simply framed vista crafted by God. The chore is a community affair, where neighbors gather to swap gossip as their clothes swash in the communal pila.

If doing my own laundry was synonymous with such a relaxed moment of meditation while gazing upon this vista, I imagine I wouldn’t begrudge the duty…

5×7: $10.00
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16×20: $45.00

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All purchase transactions will take place through PayPal. Please email me to make your order.

Click here to learn more about my high-quality photographic prints.