Saturday, May 23, 2015
I'm finally taking a sweaty moment here to start this new blog post while we are pulled over in the baking mid-day sun at a state border stop between Nayarit and Sinaloa. The guards informed us that we can't take any fruits into this state. We have been existing on a 80% fresh fruits diet for quite a few months, so to us this was very unwelcome news. So when they tried to open up our car and take it all to the trash can, we sat here instead, for at least a half hour eating mangos and bananas. We also splurged and purchased our first jumbo jackfruit this morning. I didn't even get to take a photo of it. We dug out a knife and cut it open just to try a taste before handing it over to the fruit police. They explained that there are too many pests and fungus that can be spread to all of the fruits in Sinaloa. Fair enough. I think that most people conform and hand over everything and just drive away. Not these two vegan fruit fiends! In the last week alone we have tried three new fruits: Starfruit, jackfruit, and guanabana (which I have seen all of in Asian markets in Canada but never tried). Not to mention fresh cacao fruit and seeds. Yum. The sheer acreage of plantations and the heaps of fruit on the Pacific coast has been completely mind blowing.
Thousands of forests of coconut palms. Miles of mango trees. Fields of piñas, papayas and lime trees. They are trying to feed a very hungry planet here!
So now that I wrote that all down, let me back up and recap some really beautiful and intense experiences. Some of the more intense days of this entire 5 month road trip, actually.
Our next stop on the South Pacific coast of Mexico was Puerto Escondido. We had some cacao ceremonies booked at a healing and wellness retreat center there. We were also asked by the owner to see how his new team of volunteers was doing running the place. The long and short of it was that the team was having a tough start. This place requires a lot of time and dedication. It also requires, like everything that we do everyday, clear communication with others.
There was a second round of intense waves slamming the whole pacific shoreline those first few days that we arrived in Puerto. It felt a bit reflective of the energy in the wellness center. People getting tossed to and fro in the waves of miscommunication.
We recognized that possibly a cacao ceremony for the team and the three guests might be a useful tool to create more openness and unity. So the eight of us convened on the beautiful rooftop palapa one afternoon and for several hours we created a sacred space of connection and communication. It was like magic. People arrived all flustered and exhausted. They left uplifted and full of gratitude. Mid-ceremony, a funny little seed blew onto the floor in front of me. It was like a disc of clear rice paper with a small heart-shaped seed in the center. It was a tiny confirmation for me from the universe that these cacao ceremonies are planting seeds of love across the planet. We are all planting seeds each moment. With every interaction. More love seeds, please.
We really enjoyed the team at the healing center. They were from Mexico and Canada. Such awesome young people full of passion and hope. We enjoyed sunrise meditations and early morning yoga each day that week. We shared buckets of mangos from the street outside the house. We shared vegan recipes and then ate more mangos. At the Saturday market we were able to purchase our first fresh whole cacao pods! So pretty, and tasty too.
I really appreciated the conscious manner that team meetings were held at this wellness center. One person spoke at a time without interruptions. We all encouraged each other to speak the truth and to express our truest feelings. It was very tough for some of the group to share openly and to receive what others had to say. There was some major intensity but also major growth for all involved. Including us. So after a week of these morning meetings, we were dubbed the Truth Warriors by the staff. I accept that title, as one of many, and plan to continue assisting others to bring out the truth for the betterment of all of humanity.
After a week in Puerto, we drove to Acapulco. It was a pretty neat place with lots of VW beetles and a huge mercado in the early morning as we departed after our quick one night stay. They had so many flowers at this particular mercado. Beautiful.
We then headed to Zihuatenajo. It's a beautiful city. We googled a vegan cafe where we planned to stop and rest while we got an oil change for our Truth Mobile. It was not a cafe at all but an amazing woman in her lovely home who was a raw foods warrior. Patti invited us in and made us raw vegan pizzas made with local and organic fruits and veggies. So amazing. We got that oil change and so much more. We were invited to stay at Patti's home after we saw the sprouted cacao beans on her counter. The cacao chat began and the rest was history. She took us to see our very first cacao tree just down the block from her casa. We held a cacao ceremony at her home and shared many special moments there. We departed early the second morning and Patti was up making us vegan raw burritos to go for our road lunch. Wow were they amazing!!! I thought mine were amazing but hers were out of this world. It continues to amaze me at how dazzling we all become when we are living our true calling! When life calls you, answer! Don't take a message or screen your calls. Don't say you'll call back when it's more convenient. Just take the call and enjoy it!
We were stopped at checkpoints several times in Michoacan. This is the state with some of the highest level of unrest because of drug cartels. We decided to trek through despite all of the negativity that we found online. We have heard so many negative opinions of Mexico and Central America since we began announcing that we were taking this journey last fall. We have not encountered a single situation that I would call dangerous or scary for over 5 months. Michoacan was heavily militarized and there were many checkpoints where we had to get out of the car for inspection and questioning. Which usually resulted in laughter.
The best part of these stops was that the soldiers would dig through our car asking what things were and we got to give them some free healthy living lessons! It was awesome. This state was also one of the most wild, uninhabited and beautiful that we have seen. High cliffs overlooking a blue wild ocean. Thick lush jungles covering winding roads for hours shaded us from the sun. We saw dozens of giant white butterflies flapping huge floppy, white wings and giving us the feeling that they were our tiny guardian angels. Two more days to go in magical Mexico. Magical.
"The destiny of the world is in your hands."
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
I had a brief but very clear dream about a month ago. In the dream I was instructed by a voice to collect three yellow swallow tail butterflies. I remember feeling confused and frustrated in the dream. I said to the voice "What? Why? Does that kind of butterfly even live in Guatemala?" I hadn't seen any there. In fact, I hadn't seen that type of butterfly in over a decade, since I lived in Pennsylvania. Fast forward to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, a month later. We were staying at a lovely little hostel in the city run by a very friendly couple. It was called Casa Vegano Sol, and as the name implies, it is a vegan hostel. Pretty sweet. So we were sitting in the back garden eating our breakfast of fresh fruit salad and a yellow swallow tail butterfly floated into the garden. No way! I just laughed to myself and I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that moment. In the following few days, two more came to visit. Only three. No more. I knew I wouldn't "collect" them per-say, only with my eyes and my heart. I don't really know what to make of it all, other than the fact that butterflies are amazing. They make incredible journeys and transform from an egg, to a caterpillar, into soupy imaginal cells and then finally a perfect butterfly. Incredible.
So we mentioned to the hostel owners that we would like to host a cacao ceremony. They made us a poster in Español and copied a hundred copies and then posted them all over San Cristobal. It was so kind and amazing! We had a great ceremony. We had the assistance of a few translators since our Español is limited. Half way through I forgot we were using two languages. The energy of everyone was on the same level. It didn't seem to matter much which words were being used. There were guests from Chile, Mexico, Argentina and then us. Two Canadians with Guatemalan cacao to share. What a special experience. The hostel owner said to us at the end of the ceremony "You two are healers. You took the information from the stars and shared it with everyone here."
Maybe it was just the Spanish language sounding all pretty but it brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful confirmation for two people doing what we love to do.
Speaking of cacao, again, we have a new blog up that is all about CACAO. It's pretty awesome. Check it out at www.cacaoconnection.blogspot.com
Our list of potential ceremony locations is growing by the day. We are so excited to see what unfolds. A man from Chiapas was so disappointed that he and his family missed the ceremony in San Cristobal that he is trying to figure out how to meet up with us somewhere else in Mexico later on. I told him he's the first to know if we are coming back to Chiapas!
We had a tough time leaving San Cristobal. It was so beautiful in every way. The people, the architecture, the nature, the art. The people. We feel so grateful for all of the exceptional spirits that we continue to connect with every single day. It's almost surreal. I just told a friend in an email that I wish I had a giant bus so that I could invite them all to stay with me forever. I never thought I would say this but email and "face" as they refer to it in Chiapas, are a gift when used with care and limitation. I have recently gotten messages and emails alike from people who I have had little to no communication with in the last decade telling me they they are so inspired by our journey and writing. I am so happy that I am reaching people at a heart level who are thousands of miles away from me. I will say though, that I am just like everyone else, except somehow, my spiritual information highway channel is wide open and I am very aware of this. I have been gifted this special assignment to write and to expand minds and open hearts. It's not always easy but I wouldn't ever trade it.
We enjoyed our day-long trip from the cool, crisp mountains of Chiapas to the steamy Pacific coast of Oaxaca. Through the mountains we saw many butterflies. Mostly yellow, but several massive ones that were black with turquoise patches. Stunning!
We went through several miles of mountain valleys that were covered in passion fruit vineyards. We stopped in the sweaty jungle for a sandia from a friendly goat farmer. I don't know who was happier. Us getting a watermelon or him watching.
Same thing happened when we crossed the border from Chiapas to Oaxaca. We came over a mountain and we could see orchards below in the distance. It turned out to be many thousands of mango trees. We stopped at a roadside mango oasis in the heat of the afternoon. I had a nice chat with Miguel, the landowner and mango expert. I told him that good mangos in Canada are expensive. A luxury for many. He said yes, the yellow Atulfo variety get exported to Canada and sell for the most money. He sliced us up a few samples and we were in mango heaven. We were so excited and Miguel got quite a laugh out of the mango juice dripping from beard and hands. I have never seen so many mangos in my life. Every shade of the rainbow except blue. Baskets and crates of mangos lined the streets of each pueblo for hours on end after that. Everyone was just overrun with mangos. So amazing.
We arrived at the coast around sunset. Papaya plantations dotted the hillsides. We noticed that these papaya trees were different. They were only about 5 feet tall and loaded with fruits. Super handy for ease of harvest. We had amazing papayas in Guatemala and they were loaded with seeds. The ones we have experienced in Mexico were more often than not, less tasty and had almost no seeds. We cut one the other day that literally had one seed in the entire papaya. One. Creepy. Sterile fruit? Monsanto? Is that you? We will continue to inform ourselves...
We stayed one night in a sweaty cabana on a cliff with a stunning view of the wild waves crashing below. There has been a freakish swell of giant waves along the pacific coast of Mexico and the USA, referred to as Mar de Fondo, in the last week and a second round is here now. Streets were flooded and sand is everywhere. It was amazing to walk the beaches and see the power of the ocean. There were amazing patterns of black sand all along the beach. Not sure what that was from but it sure was pretty.
We made our way to the yoga school that we thought we were going to attend back in March in Mazunte. We met the instructor and had a great chat with him. He returned our full deposit which was so wonderful. He thanked us for sending two wonderful students in our places and said it was the best group he's had yet.
We have we been really enjoying sunrise yoga on Mexican rooftops the last 10 days. Yowee! Ohmmmmmmm....
To be continued...
Friday, May 08, 2015
Our little car huffed and puffed its way out of the volcanic lake basin of Lake Atitlán, the trunk heavy with our cacao stash.
We enjoyed a beautiful drive to Xela, also known as Quetzaltenango. It's the second largest city in Guatemala and has a lot of character. On our way, we made a stop at the gigantic market at San Francisco el Alto. It was at the top of more mountains and it is the largest open air market in Central America. We parked our car and hiked up the hill past squealing pigs and blowing chicken feathers. We pretty well got lost amongst the hundreds of vendors selling everything from food to belts and hardware to kitchen wares. It was a wild assault on our senses.We left with just a few pieces of rainbow Guatemalan fabric and some bananas. It was a fun adventure. We were certainly the only gringos, or chinos, as the Guatemalans refer to non-Guatemalans with lighter skin and hair, in the entire village. We felt like celebrities....or something. People were staring, laughing as we passed and touching our clothes and our hair.
We couchsurfed with a really kind couple at their little homestead just outside of the city limits. They suggested that we check out Fuentes Georginas, a group of natural hot springs about an hour from their home. It turned out to be an amazing trek into the mountains on narrow winding roads that were barely wide enough for two cars. As we climbed, the view morphed into thick clouds. That's how high we were. Looking over the steep disappearance of the side of the trail, all we could see was white. We were amazed by the landscape that was a green quilt of patchwork veggie fields. Some were sewn to hillsides so steep that no machine could ever cling to the earth there. Practically straight up and down! It was hard to truly capture from a moving vehicle. There were no spots to safely pull over so we made our way to the end of the line where the hot springs were nestled in the cold and cloudy rainforest. (I didn't get any photos at the pools as I left all cameras in the car). We enjoyed a couple of hours in the hot pools and chatted with several interesting folks and then decided to trek back before dark.
Later that evening we went into the City to Cafe Luna. We heard that they offered 8 different drinks with cacao. So we sampled a few. They were pretty good but our cacao is better. It's true. It was a very funky little place though.
There was a very heavy rainfall the afternoon that we were up at the hot springs. When we came down, we passed by small streams that had transformed into raging rivers of garbage. Mostly plastic and styrofoam bottles and cups. There are very few official landfills and little to no garbage pickup services. This leaves the people of Guatemala the options of burning their trash or throwing it in neighborhood pits which may be located next to a river, or right in a river ravine.
After the weekend we headed for the Mexican border. We hoped that crossing with or cacao stash wouldn't be a problem. Part way there we encountered a check stop where a man wanted to search our car for fruit and veggies. I told him that all we had was one avocado for our lunch. He said ok have a nice day. We had another easy pleasant border crossing, like the previous three had been. We crossed back out from the same way we entered Guatemala, at a village called La Mesilla. A cute chocolate lab (funny, right?) hopped up in our car sniffing away for any illegal substances. The guard asked what was in the boxes and we said "oh just a little bit of Guatemalan chocolate". He said have a nice day and waved us foward.
Back in Chiapas! What a beautiful place. The pride of the people is very obvious. The homes, businesses and land are all kept very tidy and clean. Our drive to San Cristobal de las Casas was through winding hills and beautiful forests intertwined with fertile farmland growing mostly corn and coffee. It felt a lot like British Columbia. It also happens to be mango season and there are heaps of them in all colors and sizes along the roads at the market stands. Yum!!!
We have been enjoying our fair share at breakfast each day.
Our friends from Chile who we met back in Yucatan are here too! We met up with them the first night and had some big hugs. Their hostel was full, so we ended up coming to a wonderful small hostel across town called Casa Vegano Sol. As the name implies, it's a vegan place run by an awesome Mexican couple with a young son. They both speak great English and we have also practiced our Español with them. They have been very helpful helping us to advertise for our upcoming cacao ceremony that will be tomorrow in the backyard. This afternoon we all cooked a vegan lunch and another couple from Argentina joined us. We had great conversations in both Spanish and English about veganism, fracking, monsanto and government. It seems that all of our countries are facing similar domestic issues. The meal was a Swiss chard salad, Chiapas style with avocado and lime dressing, Lebanese-spiced carrot purée soup and Pad Thai. Wow. It was amazing. What a team!
We have been enjoying morning yoga on the sunny rooftop patio and hours of strolling through the beautiful artistic streets with their European-Mexican feel. The people are so friendly. As we have found nearly everywhere. We have discovered many cacao and chocolate shops here and we have taste-tested at most of them. We also visited a cacao museum yesterday which was fun and informative.
The owner of the hostel invited me to a full moon women's circle at a birthing center called Luna Maya. It was a bit outside my comfort zone because my ability to express emotions and spirituality in Español is still limited. However, I told the women that I am great at understanding Spanish, so I mostly sat and listened intently. We gathered around a lovely altar with fresh flowers, candles and fruit. We were underneath a flowering tree that rained down purple flowers throughout the ceremony. As the darkness set in, the women shared and laughed and cried and at the end I realized that it doesn't matter what country we live in or what language we speak, that humanity shares its challenges. These women discussed the same issues that women in Canada speak of. We all need the love and support of like-minded people.
Just down the street from our hostel we visited a museum called Na-Bolom, meaning house of the jaguar in a local Mayan dialect. It is a large home that was once built to house a monestary. A European couple of anthropologists and philanthropists purchased it in the 1950's and started an organization to help preserve the indigenous way of life in the Lacandón jungle of Chiapas. It was a beautiful experience and the organization is still funding sustainable forestry and preservation of native land. For more info visit www.na-bolom.org. It's in Spanish but may be available in English too?
Last but not even close to least will be the topic of the Zapatista revolution in Mexico. We knew very little about it when we arrived in Mexico. We attended a documentary called Zapatista: Chronicle of a Rebellion. In a nutshell, the Zapatistas are a group comprised of mostly indigenous people of southern Mexico. On January 1, 2004, began their uprising when their army invaded all of the main cities in Chiapas to stand up against the NAFTA agreement that was to take effect that day. The indigenous people had always felt they been treated unfairly by the government and the NAFTA agreement was the straw that broke the camel's back. The people of Chiapas want to see the trade of the natural resources of Chiapas actually benefiting the people of Chiapas. They were and are seeking fair trade standards. Their intention was to bare arms but to not use them unless necessary. The Mexican army counterattacked and invaded their indigenous communities, then set up camps for nearly a decade. Many people lost their homes and were forced to flee into the mountains to refugee camps. For over a decade, the Mexican governments in power made many promises to the Zapatistas and never fulfilled them. Surprise.
The Zapatistas have never surrendered and now have control over five main caracoles or villages in Chiapas where they self-govern and self-organize. They grow and sell their own products such as coffee, corn and honey, to name a few. There are numerous Zapatista shops scattered throughout San Cristobal where we purchased a few items to show our support. These people are facing the same issues that the indigenous peoples of every developed or developing country are facing. It's nothing new. However, this group has been one of the only bold enough to repeatedly resist the government structure and do their own thing. It's amazing. They now have one of the best universities in Mexico which es largely funded by global supporters of the EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) movement. Things are still not equal here in Mexico, or in most corners of the globe, but every voice counts and everyone deserves to live a just and equal life. Viva la Mexico. Viva las humanos de Paz y Amor!
Saturday, May 02, 2015
Here we are. It's our last night at Lake Atitlán. For now. We feel strongly that we will return again someday. What an amazing place. We have made so many powerful connections with all kinds of people.
I have been having so much fun learning Spanish at some lessons and also on my own, and especially practicing with the locals. Most of them are very patient and also have an interest in learning some English. Some of the Mayan people, who have their own native languages, have Spanish skills that are a few steps above mine, so we can chat just fine. We have gotten to know a family of three ladies that walk around the village selling baskets of fruits that they carry on top of their heads. Huge piles of sandias (watermelons), papaya, mangos and piñas. They came around 8-9am and stopped at our front door and shouted "Hay sandia! Hay piña, papaya, mango!" It was very loud and when they repeated it enough times it's hard to ignore, so we often purchased our fruit from them. They had quite a funny sense of humor. One day they saw us getting in our car (which we only did about 4 times in the 7 weeks) and they had their empty fruit baskets and were looking for a ride back to their village, which was on the way to where we were headed. We had a funny conversation with them and they giggled and waved as we drove by some of their friends on foot.
Then the other day, I was sitting using my ancient laptop and my outdated iPhone at a hostel cafe. The three ladies came in and snuggled up around me and fondled the electronics. The oldest one looked close at my face and said something like "WOW! You have mascara on!" I have rarely worn it since we have been on the road for four months, so it was funny that she was so observant. I thought about it and realized that she often saw me early in the morning in my yoga clothes with bed hair at our front door as I examined their papayas and pineapples.
We proceeded to have a very interesting conversation about the price of the luxuries that people like myself, privileged white folk, take for granted. The ladies here pay a tiny fraction of what we would for something like makeup, and get a product of way lesser quality. I told her that the mascara I was using was $150 quetzales ($30 CAN) for one tube, which is one reason that I use it sparingly. That's enough money to feed our family basic food here for about 5 days (at tourist prices) and for the locals more like a week of or two of food...or possibly even more! What a crazy world.
I thought that the fact that I have captured 8 scorpions in our house over 6 weeks was normal until I started telling people. Many of them said they have been here for months and had never seen a single one. They carry some powerful animal spirit messages which I have studied. Today, on our final day in this casa, I happened to find and capture a black widow spider hanging out on the kitchen counter. Here is a poor iPhone photo of her. They are a lot smaller than I imagined. I wanted a better picture...but it seemed a bit risky.
We have truly been enamored by the tropical plants and birdsong here. The volcanoes and sunshine have a special place in our hearts, along with the spirit of cacao that is so strong here. We have participated in ingesting a whole lot of the special plant medicine over the last year but especially these last two months.
Twice a week while we have been here we have dedicated an evening of helping to bag the freshly ground aromatic cacao paste into one-pound bricks. In exchange, we have attended healing ceremonies or taken some of the cacao home with us. Several nights we also exchanged the washing of a hundred or so rainbow cups used to drink cacao elixir at ceremonies. We have had so much fun with the cacao tribe here. It's so hard to leave the group, but we know that we all connect again through the love of cacao.
I am currently reading the book called Naked Chocolate by David Wolfe and Shazzie. It's packed full of great info on cacao if you are curious. I bought the kindle version so it's on my iphone. So amazing. What will technology do next?!
We purchased some old-fashioned woven fabric from a women's weaving cooperative that is comprised of single mothers whom have more than three children to care for. We then asked a local Mayan woman (who knocked on our door wanting to sell us her weaving) to do some sewing work for us. We told her that we don't have a house anywhere so we have no use for woven tablecloths and curtains. She gave us a very skeptical look. It was the truth though. Weaving and sewing are her best skills and we heard from several sources in the community that any financial help we can give her through supporting her skills would be very much appreciated. She has her own children as well as several nieces and nephews to support (she told me 7 in total) and as is quite common here (and many parts of our world) she has a heap of challenges to meeting the needs of her family in regards to health and safety.
Her teenaged niece came with her to our casa one evening and asked if she could borrow a dress of mine for her school play of Romeo y Julieta. I only had knee-length dresses, and she couldn't accept them as they weren't long enough. The ladies and girls here only wear the traditional güipil blouses and long corte skirts with wide, and usually intricate belts called fajas. Their outfits are beautifully hand embroidered with some beading on the belts and everything is very colorful. So she asked to borrow a white lace scarf of mine for her costume. I obliged. She was pretty excited to borrow such a unique item from a foreigner.
Her cousin and aunt created some simple drawstring pouches for our special cacao bean medicine bags. We were under the assumption that they had a sewing machine to make them. It turns out they have made them all by hand. We will offer these for sale as a fundraiser at our upcoming cacao ceremonies.
We have an awesome amount of pure cacao blocks and beans with us which have taken the place of the third human that had rode in our backseat on our way down from Mexico nearly two months ago (where did the time go??). We will be hosting cacao ceremonies starting now and heading north. Tomorrow we head to Xela / Quetzaltenango, which is the second largest city in Guatemala after the capital. Then we will cross back into Chiapas, Mexico. Excited for Chiapas!
One more tale:
One afternoon this week, I was walking back from the center of the village to our casa, which is just on the edge of town. There were hungover men strewn about on steps and benches and the smell of stale alcohol in the air. There was garbage strewn all over between piles of dog poop from lots of food scraps being eaten by the dozens of street doggies. It was the aftermath of 10+ days of parties, booze and bombas from the annual feria of the pueblo. I was feeling a bit sad and a bit disgusted. Why do people abuse themselves and tour environment so terribly? Ugh.
Just then, a small boy was approaching me in the distance. He was the only other person on the road. He looked at the most 6 or 7 years old, dressed in a bright blue soccer uniform. He smiled from the moment he saw me and then ran straight for me with his arms stretched out wide. I was amazed that I didn't know him at all but he clearly just wanted a big hug. That's all. Just a big hug. He was so happy to get a hug and a kiss on the head and thanked me with a huge toothy smile as he skipped away. Words can be messy and confusing, especially across cultural hurdles. Smiles, waves and hugs are universal no matter where I have been so far on the planet. I will not ever run short of love, so I will keep on spreading it along the heart trail. One hug at a time ...and one cacao bean at a time.