Of that Impulsive Lass…

Continued from “Tell me, O muse…”

In all honesty, although Michael had caught much of my attention, I wasn’t expecting too much. I had plans for Honduras and they didn’t include staying in SPS for too much longer. But, Michael was a go-get(her)… 😉

The next day Michael came and picked me up for our lunch date with Carlos. We met Carlos and his Spanish friend Rosa at a cute little Italian restaurant that, as it turns out, has some great pesto pizza. During lunch, I elaborated more on my plans to deliver the donation to the Chorti Maya and explained I would be leaving the next day for Copan Ruinas. By the time lunch was over, a few subtle hints from Michael led me to realize he might want to join me. I asked. Michael accepted. So I decided to postpone leaving until he got off work (his work week includes Sat mornings). In the meantime, Michael and I made plans to hit up Klein Bohemia again that night. However, KB didn’t happen. Michael wound up working extra late Friday night so we could get an earlier start to Copan the next morning. How sweet! When he finally made it over to Jason’s at about midnight, we opted for a little R&R and then a goodnight kiss with plans to head out the next morning.

Michael and I really connected on the bus ride to Copan. We talked about everything. Life, personal growth, religion, spirituality, music and more. We were so comfortable with each other. It wasn’t long before I felt as if I had known Michael more than just two days!

Copan is quite the quintessential romantic little village. Cobblestoned streets. Cowboys on the corners. Stunning mountain vistas. Lush ferns and palms. My plan was simply to stay at the Iguana Azul hostel I enjoyed so much during my last visit. But, the hostel didn’t have a room when we arrived. The Casa de Cafe bed and breakfast next door, however (same owners), was quite the romantic upgrade and it did have a room readily available just for us. Imagine that… ;). Since I was a repeat customer the owner knocked $10 off the price as well. How wonderful!

Michael and I feasted on meat that evening then went dancing at Papa Chango’s that night. I love to salsa dance! The next day, we set off to track down Billy and Mary, the inspiring couple who’s lives are now devoted to improving one of the poorest population’s in Honduras. But, Billy and Mary were no where to be found! Eventually, we found out they were back in the States for a aid conference. But the good news was, they’d be returning soon and I would still be able to deliver the donation before I left country. Since the rest of the afternoon was ours and I had missed the ruins the last time I had visited Copan, we made it a priority. The ruins were quite impressive as expected. It’s humbling to stop and meditate about how the ancient Mayan civilization constructed pyramids and created fine, intricate artwork from stone eight, nine centuries before the existence of modern technology. Michael and I had a relaxing and calm afternoon strolling through the remaining remnants of another era, another people, another culture. At one point, I insisted on shadowing a guide for a little bit. But, I have to admit, it wasn’t to hear the history so much as it was to soak in his sing song Spanish accent. I’m not going to lie, the Spanish accent from central America is like honey to my ears and the guide’s accent was really thick. Michael, who grew up speaking more English than Spanish at his bilingual school, speaks English like just like a gringo. Impressive… yet I still liked to dote on accents when I could. 😉

We were at Cafe Villamil that evening when Michael and I got a little serious about our feelings. I couldn’t believe it as I was saying it but I was willing to try to “be” with Michael. Typically, I shy away from anything too serious, knowing the reality that I live a life of travel and not wanting to make promises I didn’t want to keep. But, for reasons I didn’t really fully know, I wanted to give all of that love, relationship mumbo jumbo a go with Michael. I don’t say what I don’t mean. I meant it with Michael. I couldn’t believe I was willing to jump into a relationship with him and that he was right there ready to jump with me… but, I did know I wanted it!

Soooo… early early early in the a.m. Monday morning, Michael and I left Copan “together.” But, the plan of how that “together” would work was as yet a bit fuzzy. I had plans to go back to Jungle River Lodge and visit friends I had made my last time through. I also had designs to take off to the Bay Islands, for a trip I didn’t get to make my during last visit to Honduras. But now, I wanted to spend what time I had with Michael… before I left.

For starters, I decided to stay one night in SPS before I took off for Jungle River Lodge in La Ceiba. I wanted to keep my word and visit my friends, so I would stick to those plans at least. Michael worked long hours during the week anyways, so I planned to come back for the weekend to see him. The Bay Islands could wait. Meeting Michael’s parents on the other hand, wouldn’t be a long wait. What started off as just “keeping my bags at Michael’s til I found a hostel” turned into me staying the night at Michael’s house. Whew! This was moving fast! Michael was the nervous one though. He said his last girlfriend of 11 months didn’t visit his house more than a handful of times… and here I was already spending the night! Michael’s parents extended a warm and friendly welcome, fed me breakfast, lunch and dinner and set up a mattress in the upstairs room. Wowza.

To be continued…

Romance Buds in Copan Ruinas

Copan Ruinas is really where it all began. Simple flirting turned into full blown romance at this wonderful and charming little village tucked away in the mountains in northern Honduras. All good things come to an end… sigh. For more compelling descriptions of Copan see my previous posts about the village by clicking here. Click here to see the entire Flickr album.

Fleeing to Lago de Yojoa

Pics from the oasis of bliss amidst a falling apart romance. I fled to Lago de Yojoa and Michael came to get me and woo me back. Unfortunately, we were rocky again a couple days later. But, there was a moment at the Lake with Michael that was among the best. Click here to see the full Flickr album!

Midnight Serenade

*My words fail to paint the picture of a memory from San Pedro Sula that’s locked in my heart forever*

The rain pitters softly in the still darkness
Slowly soaking a city that’s still struggling to be
In a world where people are still struggling to live
But I’m inside, here, calm and still with you

Like raindrops on the window
Your fingers fall on the black and whites
And while nothing in this world is black and white
One sweet moment our love seems black and white

The rain, the notes melt together in melody
And your voice dances over them in a whisper
with your lips pressed softly against my ear
my heart sings along with your midnight serenade

Like raindrops on the window
Your fingers fall on the black and whites
And while nothing in this world is black and white
One sweet moment our love seems black and white

Fuego y Agua Fires Up Eco-Tourism on Ometepe

I’ve slacked off from blogging… even though, as usual, I have tons of adventure to share. In the next few days, I plan to catch up. But, in the meantime, check out this amazing initiative organized by a fellow couchsurfer. I met Josue in Denver, CO. Looks like I’ll be catching up with him again at his ultra-marathon event in Nicaragua. The following article is an article I wrote for Josue that he’ll try to get published in some running magazines in the U.S. A similar article that I wrote has already been published in the Nica Times in Nicaragua.

A brand new race is on the market for all you “tough as nails” ultrarunners. But, bear in mind, this race is for the serious adventurer.

“It’ll be a little bit daunting,” race founder and organizer Josue Stephens mused.

The most audacious of extreme athletes now have their chance to thoroughly explore and, perhaps, conquer Nicaragua’s volcanic island of Ometepe (La Isla de Ometepe) during the Fuego y Agua 100K and 50K. The ultra-marathon marks the island’s first-ever racing event and the first time ultrarunners have competed in a struggle to ascend the island’s, not one, but two looming volcanoes. Concepción rises to more than 5000 feet from within Central America’s largest Lake, Lake Nicaragua. Its twin, Maderas, summits at just over 4500 feet. Stephens says the race will bring an estimated 60 professional runners zigzagging through Ometepe’s steep volcanic slopes, white, sandy beaches, traditional villages, and dusty, dirt roads on December 13th, 2008. Continue reading “Fuego y Agua Fires Up Eco-Tourism on Ometepe”

Bigger than Imagination…

I don’t do it enough, but when I stop to think about the amazing complexities of our planet Earth – from subatomic particles like quarks to massive, erupting volcanoes – I feel dizzy and bewildered by such impressive and wonderful design and order in a seemingly chaotic world. And that’s just our planet. When you start thinking about everything outside this planet in space and beyond… well, most of it is simply unfathomable for me. But, NASA just released a new online tool that illustrates some of that “unfathomable” galactic design. NASA now offers an infrared map of our “neighborhood”: the Milky Way.

More than 800,000 frames from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope were stitched together to create this infrared portrait of dust and stars radiating in the inner Milky Way.

As inhabitants of a flat galactic disk, Earth and its solar system have an edge-on view of their host galaxy, like looking at a glass dish from its edge. From our perspective, most of the galaxy is condensed into a blurry narrow band of light that stretches completely around the sky, also known as the galactic plane.

In this mosaic the galactic plane is broken up into five components: the far-left side of the plane (top image); the area just left of the galactic center (second to top); galactic center (middle); the area to the right of galactic center (second to bottom); and the far-right side of the plane (bottom). From Earth, the top two panels are visible to the northern hemisphere, and the bottom two images to the southern hemisphere. Together, these panels represent more than 50 percent of our entire Milky Way galaxy.

Click here to read more.

Find the Magic

My friend Loic, the couchsurfer who hosted me in France, just emailed me. And, even through an electronic email, I was so affected by his enthusiasm and pure spirit. I said before that Loic is a treasure, a simply stunning person. I can feel his zeal for life through his words… I mean I really feel it. Can you?

For me it’s more than busy, and I have taken the time to analyse where
I am, and where I want to go
. In a way, I’m impressed to look at what
I have done, but I’ve also the paradoxical impression that “the more
you learn, the more you realise you have to learn”
So to summarize last months, difficult, full of learnings, magic, and
… In few words, amazing evolutions

I will leave from my job in september, I’m learning portuguese :), I’m
working more and more with six incredible young senegalese on an
incredible project (www.ndaam.com), with Nigerians on another project
in Niamey, I’m making informal microcredit (to my level) in Senegal,
and enjoying how magic can be the life. I go to work Senegal in less
than two months now… Finally for 4 weeks. So good
! I’ll come back to France by the road and the desert, through
Mauritania and Marocco for two weeks of holidays and to see some
friends. To sum up, that’s it ! Are you coming for the road ?? 🙂

You guys haven’t met Loic, but, I have… and I just wish I could describe the person he is… but that’s near impossible.

A Hop, Skip, and a Jump to the Western Sahara

…just kidding. But, with some of these pictures I might just be able to fool you. I’ve never seen sand dunes before! But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself… again.

Massimo and I bussed it to Mui Ne, a beach resort along the southern coast of Vietnam. Along the way, Massimo started chatting with a laid back and amusing German guy, Markus. By the end of the ride our little party of two became a party of three. But, that worked out perfectly, because Massimo was planning on rushing through Mui Ne. I, on the other hand, was considering staying longer to take wind surfing lessons, so now, I would have a new travel buddy when Massimo took off. In the search for a guesthouse, we also met two Kiwis. Our little group had now just grown to five. Massimo, Markus and I shared a room for the night to save on the cash. The Kiwis, Mahara and Bart, got a room right next door. We then all wound up booking a jeep together for exploring the red and white sand dunes the next day. Wait? Red and White sand dunes?? How cool!!! I’ll be honest. I hadn’t read up too much on Mui Ne before I arrived and I didn’t realize there were cool sand dunes to check out until we got there. I was pumped! Like I said above, I’ve never really seen sand dunes before. That night we all kicked it at the Pogo Bar. There was a German DJ who was really friendly and helpful. The drinks were a bit expensive, but it had free Wifi and great atmosphere… so that was good for us.

The next day it was early to rise and early to eat for an early start of adventure. Our jeep arrived at 7 on the dot… we wrapped up breakfast by 7:30 and headed for the dunes. Wow… how to describe? I don’t know if I can. Looking out across these massive hills of sand that are constantly shifting with the wind, it looks like your looking at heaps of flowing silk, wavering in smooth ribbons. The peak of the next dune looks so close… ha! You could rent these little plastic sleds from the locals to go sledding. We had been told by the German DJ that you should be able to rent them for 5,000 dong, unlimited slides. They try to tell you it’s 50,000 dong per slide. Okay, that’s a record. The little mongrels were going for ten times the price! When we kept refusing and then ignored them, they finally handed us the sleds for 10,000 dong a piece, unlimited slides. Double what we should have paid, but hey we were talking about 60 cents versus 30 cents here. But again, my point proven, you’re always paying at the min, double than what you should… just for being a Westerner. I’m starting to get a small taste of what being discriminated against would feel like. Oh, just so you don’t think I’m a scrooge here. Most locals (who don’t deal with tourists) work all day for $2… and live off that. So, 30 cents is a lot of money here. Anyway, I took a plunge on the slide… and got nowhere fast. Total rip-off. But, a 60-cent rip-off nonetheless. We ditched the sleds and took to diving off the dunes instead. Well, I was the only one ballsy enough to dive. Everyone else jumped feet first. It was so fun! We amused ourselves for about 45 minutes just doing karate kicks and dives off the sand dunes into… well, more sand. Of course, when you landed the dive you had to finish with a roll. It took me a few “dives” before I was really able to just thrust myself out there. Whaahahaha… it was so fun! Massimo had wandered off while the rest of us were diving and karate kicking. When I finally stopped throwing myself over the edge and looked up… Massimo looked sooo far away. Cool! I wanted to go deeper into the dunes! Markus and I took off. The Kiwis stayed and kept playing the jumping game. As Markus and I set off deeper into the dunes… a storm started brewing. The sky was darkening, clouds were building, winds were blowing, sand was swirling. Nothing too major. The storm was a little ways off… but it was still rustling the dunes a bit. The sand started forming into these currents that skimmed just above the dunes… until they finally spun off of the edge. Mesmerizing… Whoa… That’s all I have to say. Whoa. Can’t wait to trek through the Western Sahara Loic-style!!

After the white dunes, our guided jeep took us to the red dunes. The red dunes are cool, but less impressive. Not as big. More weeds. Still cool though. The last part of the morning adventure was a hike through Fairy Stream. More like Fairy Gorge of Natural Drizzly Sandcastles! Really. It was the gorge formed through sand by water. The walls of the gorge is sand that’s been shaped by water run-off. Totally drizzly sandcastle style! The sandy walls are rather hard and packed for sand… but still soft enough to send chunks crumbling as Mahara and I found out when we climbed it. We were the catalysts for a few miniature sand waterfalls. Cool… minature sand waterfalls… another first! The water through the gorge was shallow since it was the dry season, thus very easy to trudge through. The red sand mixed with the water, turning it a frothy ruddy red color. There were deposits of darker, coal-colored sand that would form cool swirls with the yellow and red sand. It looked like the same pattern of swirls you would find on marble tiles. I liked the name of this gorge or stream or whatever you wanted to call it. Fairy obviously makes you think of fairytale and these surroundings definitely seemed like something out of a Pan’s Labyrinth-style, The Little Princess-style or Finding Neverland-style fairytale (all great movies you should see if you haven’t seen them). The place is strangely compelling and intriguing with an almost absurdly exaggerated quality about it. Does that even make sense? If you saw the Pan’s Labyrinth or The Little Princess or Finding Neverland and think of the way the fairytale scenes were way illustrated in those movies, you would understand what I’m trying to say here. Either way… magical. Without a doubt. You know, it’s really invigorating when you discover that the imaginary realms of fairytales really do exist in some places… smile… yes, still very much a little girl sometimes. Unfortunately, there were kids that tagged along bursting your fairytale bubble every once in a while, acting as your surprise guide telling you where to go. Bahhh! They lead you to an overlook… which, gasp… you could easily find on your own… and a small waterfall… which gasp… is another easy find… and a ruin to a nice little surprise when they tell you about it ahead of time… thank you very much! Then, on the walk back they want money of course. Did you hire them? No. Did they really provide any service? No. Are you past the poor little kid act when all these kids have perfect teeth, nicer clothes than you and chocolate stains on their shirts? Yes. (Okay. So most still don’t live in houses so-to-speak with heating, a/c, proper windows with carpeting and tile and hallways and bedrooms and foyers and all that… but, in perfect honesty, I don’t think they want to… and why should they? They live on a tropical, palm-fringed coast with mysterious sand dunes and magical fairy streams. What’s the point of closing yourself in when all you need is a shack, a hammock a fire to cook fresh fish and some tourists to suckle milk money from?). A five-thousand dong coin was all I was willing to give up to the little money-hound when he held out his hand. He looked at me with a sympathy-beggar face (which my even my lil bro had perfected at 3 months) and whined, “No. One-dollar (that’s 16,000 dong).” Ha! When beggars get to be choosers… they’re not beggars!!! I snorted a scrooge-like laugh and walked off without giving him anything. He followed whining “Okay, five-thousand okay.” I turned and gave him nothing. Then I wrestled with whether I should feel guilty or not. The kid was not poor. But, I still felt like a scrooge. And, many couchsurfing hosts can attest… I’m not a scrooge! I definitely felt confused about how I should feel. Bahhh!

Again… I found the real, live realm of the fairytale world… only for that discovery to be popped… and by a kid nonetheless! I just wanted to scream at them to go dive off some sand dunes or chase crabs with a flashlight and leave me alone! There are children that need to be fed in this world… but… these little buggers are not them. The more I spend time in SE Asia, the more I wonder… how rich and how poor are people really? How rich are those with all those freaking material anchors that keep them slaved in offices all day and who feed off of fish that’s been shipped in frozen containers for days at fine dining restaurants. How poor are those whose bathrooms and kitchens aren’t what you’d call the most sanitary, but who eat the freshest fish from the sea, the freshest juice from coconut trees, just outside their shack… and who hound tourists for milk money in fairylands all day? What’s worse? A society that is built upon getting rich, but where, in most cases, you can still count on the average person giving you a fair price and a helping hand, as… gasp… a free favor? Or a society where wealth is still at war with “poverty” and it feels like everyone is out to cheat you, smiling all the while? A guide I had later in my travels, revealed something very interesting to me. He said all the “poor” villagers in Vietnam don’t want to work. Work as in the Western way of working. They want to stay in their villages, grow their own food, eat their own food and make their own supplies from the materials the amazingly exotic jungle just outside their shack provides. They embrace some modern convenience like western clothes (which all come from Asia for pennies anyways) and Satellite TV (so funny to see Satellite dishes on top of shacks – trust me, it’s common.) Life is simple, and they like it. They don’t want to change it. That all falls in line with the answer I get every time I ask whether villagers who see the tourists plodding in and out of the their villages ever wonder… what life is like outside their village? or, where do these Westerners come from? or, why do they come here? But, many have assured me… ‘No. They don’t care.’ Tourists are just a way for them to keep living the way they do and make some easy money while they’re at it so they can buy their satellite dishes and tack them on top of their shacks. Weeeeelllll, thousands were spent on my education so I could get a degree, so that I could get a good job, so I could work long and hard (for a while in a box!), just so I could save enough money to then travel halfway around the world, to see your little village of shacks in paradise! So please! Don’t mind me little villager, or city bumpkin for that matter, when I refuse to fork over my “wealth” of money just because you stuck out your hand!!! These villagers have satellite TV. The house where I grew up never had satellite TV. My little brother and sister still don’t have satellite TV. Hmmmm…

Okay, I’m done with the rant. There really are some poor, desperate people here. They are rarely ever the ones begging you for money though.

So, our morning of fun on the sand dunes and in Fairy Gorge (I like Gorge better than Stream) was over by noon. Massimo was back in time to catch his bus to Nha Trang (another beach resort city further up the coast, this one famous for good diving.) I might catch him a bit later in Laos. The rest of us were sticking around a bit longer. Again, I was contemplating wind surfing lessons. But, shortly thereafter, I decided I didn’t want to fork over $250 and maybe have to stay up to 5 days longer. I just didn’t have that kind of time or money. I couldn’t give up one dollar for crying out loud. Remember? Markus, Mahara, Bart and I had a fun afternoon finding a place to enjoy lunch, goofing off in the ocean (where I got stung by some unidentified creature that left welts wrapped around my ankle for a day), splurging on dinner ($7 for pizza!) and splurging on after dinner cocktails. Of course, some dancing ensured. The boys were fun and funny to dance with… hehehehe. We all had our own goofy moves we designated before we hit the dance floor and when we yelled out “MOVES!” we had to bust them out like crazy fools. Hahahhaha… it was so fun! Speaking of… I need to get those pics from the Kiwis…

The next day we all moved on. The Kiwis went to Nha Trang… I might catch them as well a bit later in Laos. Markus and I went to Dalat. Nha Trang was another beach resort city. Dalat was a mountain town in the central highlands that seemed to draw less Western tourists.

Starting off with my best foot forward… the one that follows God.

The excuses and the procrastination are over! I’m FINALLY starting a blog… and I’ll start with the first thing I can’t seem to say enough these days: “I’m so ready for what’s next in my life!” Problem is… I have no idea what that might be. The question I keep asking myself daily is a question posed in ‘The Sacred Romance’: “What is it that I’m supposed to be doing to live the spiritual life in any way that is both truthful and passionately alive?” That question particularly strikes a chord with me now… as I feel restless… waiting for LIFE to happen. Plus, I thought that would be a sound question to ask at any point in my life… to make sure I’m on the right track with the right goals in mind. Hence, the name of the blog. I’m hoping the blog name will serve as a constant reminder. ‘The Sacred Romance’ is a good tool for that too… for reminding yourself to ask the right questions and strive for the right goals. I’m not even close to being finished with it… which is odd, because I normally blow through books. But, this is the kind of book that’s meant to be digested slowly… so you can turn each piece of advice over and over in your mind… hopefully cementing it into your memory… so you can use it later. A friend that is invaluable to me recommended the book, and it’s been a guiding light. I pass along the recommendation with the hope that it can offer you something as well…

Today was another very mediocre day at work (aside from lunch with the boss and co-workers… that was fun!) There’s a poem I wrote in high school that comes to mind though… it conveys how I feel… part of an assignment after reading ‘Death of a Salesman”. I’ll see if I can find it when I get home and post it later.

As mediocrity persists at work… there’s no question that I’m actively seeking something to offer the passion, excitement and spirituality for which I’m so desperately yearning. As I’ve sought those things, various “opportunities” have arisen… many of which conflict with prior committments… one of which has been the most challenging and continually enlightening experience of my life. One I know I’ll never forget… and one I know I’ll take with me everywhere.

Speaking of everywhere… a quick glance up from my computer leaves my eyes to feast upon the collage of Italy pictures that are taped to the wall next to my desk. The pics are from a desk calendar that my Aunt Diane gave me… thanks Diane! Excellent gift! My heart is continually calling me back to Italy… and to travel. There was a roundtrip ticket available to Rome for about $750 on hotwire the other day… it was everything I could not to ‘click’ purchase. Roundtrip or not… I don’t think I would have come back this time… not for a good while.

But, this mediocrity at work is teaching me very valuable lessons. I’m learning about things I do and don’t want from a job… from life. I’m learning the value (and certainly the trials!) inherent in patience. I’m learning to appreciate things I might not have appreciated before… and even those things and experiences I appreciated before… I’m learning to appreciate more fully.

And there have been some experiences that have been absolutely “sweet!” and “amazing!” I’m talking about blasting skeet with shotguns, bullseyes with rifles and action targets with a pistol baby! Yup. All thanks to my awesome boss! Well, my boss’s boss actually. He says I’m a pretty decent shot… I say… I’ve got a lot of work to do before I become a spy! I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Er… weeeeeelll… actually… most of you probably know I”m really not kidding. I’d love to be snatched up by the CIA, trained to master any weapon, including my own body and my own intelligence, and use it to take out bad guys… Boondock Saints style! (An aside: GREAT move! Go watch it!) Wow… what a crazy, exciting life that would be! Intelligence, travel, elite exercise, arms and continual challenge and mystery! Mom, I know you’re cringing as you read this… but I’ve always been drawn to such things. And, Mom, if you’re asking where’s the spirituality in that… God waged war with Satan. Taking out bad guys is completely legit. And any good guy on the wrong side… will have eternal life… sooner. I admit… I hope I’m later than sooner! Periods of medioctrity and all… life’s a trip!

I’ll leave off with that for now… Crazy Laura wants to be a spy! Gosh, I’m such a little kid sometimes…