Charmed in Playa del Carmen

When I arrived in Playa del Carmen, America and Pauloko greeted me at the local bus station right on 5th avenue. We swung by America’s apartment to drop off my things before heading toward a hostel to help prep for the birthday celebration of one of America’s friends. So much familiarity, yet so much change. Playa del Carmen is currently ranked as THE fastest growing city in the world…

Fortunately, the coastal charm of a smaller seaside village continues to thrive in Playa. The highway that runs along the coast of the Riviera Maya slices through Playa nearer to the shore. Most of the city’s growth extends out from the other side of the highway… away from the sea. Thus, the highway helps preserve the more intimate nucleus of the city. Walk just about a dozen blocks from sea and you’ve already reached the highway.

The infamous 5th avenue, which marks the second block from the coast, is lined with cafes, gelaterias, boutiques, art galleries and quaint hotels. I popped out of the hostel just one block up from 5th avenue to indulge in one of my favorite treats – a fresh fruit and veggie smoothie!

Soon the techno house music led us on highs and lows that reflected the rhythm of the waves at sea. Party-goers began to arrive and drink chelas (beer) at the rooftop bar and dip into the rooftop pool. I began to slip back into a familiar bliss. I socialized with friends, but so easily I would lose myself in the music, my heart and soul turned toward the sea, completely mesmerized by her opal, turquoise, azure and sapphire hues. And my precious moon began to emerge, shining bright and bold… as dusk turned to darkness. When night fell I escaped, padding my way down the cobbled road toward the water’s edge. Stepping out of my clothes I slipped right into the cool, dark waters. Home.

I quickly fell into my old morning routine greeting the day with a morning run along the shore and cooling down with a leisurely swim. I would playfully roll around in the soft waves then drift on my back… utterly content… just me and the sea.

By 8:30 I was sitting upright and erect, ready for an energizing Vinyasa flow yoga class with Ellen at Yoga By the Way

Back to Paradise

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05.03.11

At the airport in Cancun, I made friends with a Virgin American crew member and a fellow traveler from Norway… perhaps we’ll be in touch.

I took a shuttle from the airport to the bus station in the center of town. I felt so “at home” again, yet felt my spirit hadn’t quite released LA yet…

Perla came with her boyfriend Mario and picked me up from the station. I shrieked with joy when I saw her…

Benny met us shortly thereafter and we made a beeline for greasy, yummy Mexican food. Guacamole, chorizo tacos, carne asada, frijoles… ala ¡Que Rico!

Benny is beyond words. He’s so pure.

We picked up Benny’s budding flame… Karina. She and I are one in the same… she possesses a true zest for life!

Ruben and Victor meet us for drinks. Back in tropical paradise, sipping a pina coloda with old, cherished friends… ahem ¡QUE RICO!

It all felt surreal… being surrounded by so many people I love again. Each and every one is so dear and special to me.

05.04.11

I slept in… I haven’t done that since I decided to return to Latin America. Still… sleeping in here is waking up early in LA… so maybe I didn’t sleep in after all.

After working and connecting with my client, I leave for the beach. My friends are at work and it’s just me…

I go to Playa Marlin, where I used to live. I lived in an apartment that had a beautiful view of the sea. The very waves that I so clearly remember lulling me to sleep crashed in a soft greeting of “welcome back.” When I bathed in the sea my senses began to reawaken. Little by little, I felt myself reconnecting

I busted out the blender when I got back to my friend’s apartment. Now I can liquefy my own fresh, tropical bliss!

Sushi for dinner… catching up with Perla.

Inspired to shoot a special shot… sipping wine poolside under the cozy night sky my spirit makes the final shift… finally, I am reconnected.

At One

aerialplmBy Laura Rico

I am at one with the energy here
my spirit opens
my soul sings
the silent trance calms me…

beneath the quiet
a glorious celestial choir
bursting forth from love…

the wind tickles my skin
the tropical air warm and moist
fluttering fronds of a palm
sweetly caressing my face
shivers of ecstasy course through my being
oh joy!

I am so elated to feel “me” again!

Insatiable Wanderlust

A silly photo Sebastián took of me at Gladstones in LA. I'm ready to sail off and conquer the world!

I laugh at myself. On the move yet again. Back to Mexico and Guatemala. Just about an hour until I take off from LAX…

I could no longer bear how much I missed my friends, so Riveria Maya and La Antigua here I come! I’ll spend about two weeks on the Yucatan Peninsula before I head back to Guatemala. I can’t believe it has been more than a year and half since I last lived in the “land of eternal spring.” Memories from both Mexico and Guatemala have been flooding my consciousness lately. I have begun dreaming in Spanish again. I woke up just the other morning in mid-sentence… speaking Spanish. Again, I laugh. I remember how it took a couple weeks for me to adjust to speaking English again when I arrived in LA. It looks like the transition back to Spanish will go more smoothly. Of course, I’ve been using my Spanish at every possible opportunity…

Ah, such is the life of the restless wanderer – the nomad, the gypsy, the “mystic” as the Italian-American puts it. And I love it. I love living with the fluidity of the wind and the beloved sea…

You can read more about my goals for my trip back to Mexico on my new website fotofatal.com. Please see fotofatál: Mobilized for Mexico. No, I am not replacing this website. Giramonda.com will still represent my personal blog. However, as I have previously alluded, I have been working extremely hard on launching a proper professional website for my photography. The site is now up and I feel quite proud. I will still be uploading many more images to add to my photo galleries, but I already have enough images uploaded to accurately showcase my work. I’ll also be offering the sales of prints and digital downloads through fotofatal.com very soon. I’ve developed the concept to match my lifestyle. I am developing a virtual brand of photography that I can take with me anywhere. I envision fotofatal becoming a centralized source online for commissioning and deploying photographers for projects, events, etc… anywhere around the world:

We envision fotofatál as a worldwide photography force poised to meet any photographic endeavor anywhere around the globe. Wedding or war, family or fashion, community or commercial, humanity or nature – no assignment is too great or too small for fotofatál.

Work with us and become a part of something bigger…

For now, it starts with me. 🙂

I used Moo for my custom business cards. I’m very excited about how they turned out. I’ve been getting great responses. Now, I’m just kicking myself for not printing more. I have a hunch I’ll have to replenish the pack quite soon.

So, just to claim it and own it: World, I am so ready to for my commissioned photography assignments located around the world. Travel, wedding, editorial, commercial, lifestlye… bring it on! It’s time for fotofatál!

I’m also working on revamping this website. Please bear with me as I give giramonda.com a face lift.

Also, I’ll be launching another website very soon. This business concept will be an extension of my photography, but it will also be heavily committed to giving back to charities and aid organizations. I plan to invite other photographers to participate in the project. Stay tuned…

So yes, I’ve been a busy little worker bee. That fact is reflected in my bland writing. My sincerest apologies. As I get all these concepts organized and running I will be committing to writing more regularly again. I sorely miss writing for myself. I loved blogging about my adventures through Europe and SE Asia. My travels through Latin America and LA were chronicled less due to constantly writing for everyone else and, now, all this work in setting up my business concepts. Soon I will be sharing my heart and soul again through both the written word and the lens…

I have already lived an extremely rich and blessed life – a life overstuffed with the experiences of ten lives. And yet, I have an exciting feeling that the best is only just beginning.

I want to give a special thanks to Clara, Gabriel, Dustin, Sebastian, Kristelle, Perla and Jen. Each of these beautiful souls truly enriched my experience in LA and I’m extremely grateful to have their invaluable friendship and support. I love each and every one of you very much.

Time to let life work its wily magic…

Ala ¡¡Que Rico!!

Flying Through the Caribbean Breeze

A little video of me clinging to some sort of wind swing thing that whips me around like a rag doll off the coast of the Riviera Maya (Cancun, MX, spring 2010):

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Here’s one where we cruised around the inlets in little toy speedboats before spilling out into the sea and jumping overboard to snorkel:

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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:

Mind Scraps: A Bittersweet Farewell to My Dear Playa…

Before, thanks to my almost uncontainable excitement for the next step of my journey, I always managed to subdue the melancholy of a “goodbye.”

But these past few life transitions these past couple of years have left me red-eyed and profoundly touched.

I had to say goodbye to some truly remarkable people during my last hours in Cancun. Each, in their own unique and special way, left me sobbing with humility as they whispered into my ear during a powerful embrace how much the loved me, how much they’ll miss me, how much I’ve affected their lives.

“You know, invariably when you ask about someone, about who they are as a person you get varied responses,” one of my friends began. “‘Oh he’s amazing!’ one says. Or, ‘I don’t know him well’ says another. Perhaps ‘Oh he’s not so great.’ Or even, ‘Oh he’s NOT a good person.'”

“So how is it Laura,” my friend continued, “that with you I always get the same response? Everybody loves you. Do you see that? We ALL love you Laura.”

He continued to share and told me that he feels I’m here for something more, some sort of crucial mission. He didn’t elaborate but he insisted that that is why I’m here.

Then, another came forward. A young man, a beautiful and awakening soul who is only just starting to see that life is more than booze and girls. Thus, his words surprised me: “Remember Laura, you are a warrior. You are a WARRIOR. Don’t forget that. NEVER forget that. Someone places a wall before you and you DRIVE IT TO THE GROUND. You bust through it showing that NOTHING can stop you. YOU show everyone else that ANYTHING can be accomplished. Don’t ever forget that you have that power and what your example means to the rest of us. I love you Laurita.”

Upon hearing about my new found Prince Charming, a young woman I’ve known casually, thanked me for giving her inspiration and faith that the “fairytale kind of love” DOES exist. She then shared that she was just recently divorced. I had gone out with her on several occasions but had no idea, no idea what she had been going through.

At one point during our gathering, a stranger to me, yet a friend to one of my beloved girlfriends here began to unleash a stream of negativity and assumption: “L.A. is just an illusion. Broken dreams. Don’t expect much. People like me eat people like you there.” The “no’s,” “not’ss” and negativity continued to stream from his mouth.

“Stop!” I countered forcefully. “You’re full of negativity and quite honestly, I want nothing to do with it. That’s certainly not what I need right now, just hours before I leave.”

Yet he insisted and the negativity continued to spew. “Don’t expect much from your ol’ boy there.”

For a moment my ego tried to win out and I bitterly laughed as I scoffed, “Me! She who has traveled to 22 countries alone. Countries like Cambodia and Vietnam and dangerous places like Chihuahua, MX… you think I will have a problem returning to my own country? That my own country will eat me when I have found but only friends in the foreign lands that I have tread?! No I will have none of it!”

Yet his insistence continued. He began to speak over me. Then, my beloved girlfriend tried to defend him. This hurt the most. Not because of him, but because of her. She was listening to the negativity, accepting it. I loved her dearly, and this “dark thought” was something I knew she still battled with… so much. ‘This is NOT how I want to spend my final moments,’ I thought to myself. ‘I’ll go… get some good rest.’ I reasoned. My recoiling reaction startled many from the group.

“But we’re all here for YOU,” they argued, hurt.

I compromised with the decision to “take a walk” but come back. I was hoping during my walk they would realize the right thing to do… Biologist Benny, an absolute sweetheart with a spirit of gold, came with me. He let me rant and calmed my tension. When we returned the “negative energy” had simply… vanished.

More hugs, more tears, more joy and more bittersweet goodbyes…

Friendship Poem

For my birthday, a dear friend I met through Couchsurfing in Cancun wrote me the following:

Lamneto mucho no estar hoy contigo en este dia tan especial…. Tu cumpleaños!

So much I lament not being abel to be with you on this special day… your birthday!

Aveces siento que eres un angel que vino a iluminar mi vida y la de los demás Csurfers y lo

Sometimes I feel that you are an angel that came to illuminate my life and the lives of other Couchsurfers and the

Ultimo que quisiera es que llegue el dia en que no te vea mas porque se que tarde o temprano te iras de Mexico

Last thing I would want is to come the day that I don’t see you anymore because I know that sooner or later you will leave Mexico

Rompiendo los corazones de todos los que te amamos, eres una gran mujer y una gran amiga con un

Breaking the hearts of all that love you, you are a great woman and a great friend with a

Alma que brilla con una luz tan hermosa para alimentar la esperanza de mas personas como tu y como yo.

Soul that shines with a light so beautiful it feeds the hope of more people like you and like me.

Feliz cumpleaños Hermosa

Happy birthday beautiful

te quiero muchisisisimo!!!!

I care about you so much!!!!

que rica amistad!!!

What a blessed friendship!!!

Thank you Victor. I love you with all my heart.

Mind Scraps: Frogs and Turtles, Princes and Princesses

“Do you have a notebook I could use,” I asked my friend Benny – Biologist Benny we call him. “Mine’s about filled up.”

That’s when he offered me The Blue Day Notebook. He had just started using it, but insisted on giving it to me. It’s a cute little blue book with a cute little frog motif. As you flip the pages, the little frog tumbles along the edge…

I opened it up to read:

Laura,

Te quiero mucho mucho mucho. (I really really really care about you.)

Benny

Then I continued on to read the author’s introduction. Here is my favorite prose the author shared:

“True inspiration is everywhere, all the time. It’s in the objects on your desk, it’s in the flashing lights of an ambulance, it’s in the lyrics of your favorite song, it’s the way you hold someone’s hand, it’s the way a dog turns around twice before lying down to sleep. In other words, inspiration is seeing ordinary things in an extraordinary way – imagining what things would be like if they were somehow… different.”

“What is important is that you let your mind run free to consider new creative relationships and then have the decipline to put your thoughts down on paper.”

“To create interesting work you must live an interesting life.”

****

The night before last, Biologist Benny opened his heart to me and moved me to tears. He simply whispered the sweet words that anyone always longs to hear. Words like: special, unique, magic, light. I feel so blessed to have him in my life. He’s more than a friend, he’s a soulmate. I have discovered that we have not one soulmate… we have but billions and trillions. Every single being on this planet is a potential soulmate… we only have to open ourselves to see the light within. Benny is an enchanting person and I consider him one of my dearest friends. He is special.

Last night Benny led us on a magical excursion. From shore we silently marveled as the giant sea turtles emerged from the dark waters of the night and slowly crawled their way across the beach. Whips of sand began flying as the turtles stopped and began digging… digging their nests right there in the middle of Cancun’s tourist-trampled, white sand beaches. Then the stillness came and they did not move. The “trance” had begun. The conservationists slowly moved approached the turtles beckoning us to follow with care. Astonished we watched white, mucas-covered eggs pop out from behind the tortoise’s tail. The we helped gather the eggs in buckets, moving them new nests we had already dug in special nurseries built away from tourist trample. Hopefully, we’ve given some little new embryos the chance to survive, grow and hatch.

As we walked back from this incredible glimpse into the mysteries of nature, it was Victor’s turn to move me to tears. His words resembled Ben’s, but were spoken with Victor’s uniquely charming touch. Again my ears wrung with words like special, unique, magic, light and my heart swelled with love. “You really don’t know just how much you’ll be missed,” he told me. When I think of Victor I will always imagine the strong, young mahogany-colored warrior dancing with heart and soul.

Two Australian girls also accompanied us. Biologist Benny was hosting them through Couchsurfing. Benny had told me ahead of time that Grace and Zia were “encantadoras” (enchantresses). He was right. In less than 10 hours, these two young hippie girls who grew up on a commune out in the wilderness of Australia’s bush had also earned a very special place in my heart. Two powerful young women full of love and magic.

Of course, Perla was there. Throughout the day, her pure, sincere and unassumingly loving friendship provoked my eyes to moisten. She is as faithful and loving as man’s beloved best friend. A true spitfire in her own right. I adore her…