30 September 2009

Heading to Ruin(s)

Our week of spanish lessons are done. We've been enjoying this idyllic time by reading, studying and cooking. Every day we've had 4 hours of one-on-one spanish lessons and quite a bit of homework. Kristin has already read around 100 books, while I've been studying the guidebooks to Central and South America.

We're less than two weeks into this trip and already I feel like we don't have enough time. Six months to see Latin America? I mean, come on! Plus, the slower we go, the cheaper it will be as we can use buses instead of planes for transportation. Anyways, Kristin and I will be talking about this and we'll let you know if anything changes. Also, we just got news the Chris, Hillary and Mia will be joining us in Costa Rica next month. Hurray!

Anyways, Kristin is asleep and I'm trying to send out a few last emails. We're waking early tomorrow to head north to Lanquin, where there are some hot springs, an underground river, and a tree-house hostel. Then up to the far north area of Peten, where we'll hopefully see the ruins of Tikal, Zotz, Mirador and maybe more. Until then, here are some pictures of us with our spanish teachers! Thank you Romanti and Fredy for teaching, and Ann for setting us up with such wonderful maestros.

29 September 2009

Dia de La Ciudad

As we were eating breakfast this morning, our friend Gustavo told us that a neighboring town was celebrating their town's "day." The whole town sets up banners, decorates the streets (literally), puts up vending and game booths, and imports festival rides like a merry-go-round and wheel. The priest is the center of attention here. The priest makes stops along the way, says a few prayers, and then continues on. The parade ends at the church, which is always in the center of town and has the central park or town plaza directly adjacent.

I find that the street decorations are the most interesting aspect. Ordinary people spend hours laying out a carpet of flowers, pine needles and colored sawdust. It's absolutely beautiful. However, as you can see in the video, the procession walks right over these decorations, destroying in a few minutes what had taken hours to make.

This seemingly futile artistic endeavor reminds me of the Tibetan monks who spend all day creating intricate art in the sand, only to rake over it at the end of the day. The monks do this to illustrate (and remind us?) that, in the big picture, what we know is minuscule and temporary.  We are but a spec of sand in the greater universe and heavens. Take from it what you will, but I hope you enjoy this short clip.

26 September 2009

Antigua Market

The open-air market is at the heart of Antigua, and it's at it's peak on Saturday morning. We'd already been there a few times before, but we thought we'd check it out again. Well, it was loud, colorful, aromatic, fun, and crowded. We bought a ton of fruits, veggies and nuts. Everything is local, cheap and delicious too! Most of the women continue to wear their traditional woven clothing, with lots of black, purple, blue and red colors. 

Unfortunately, as we were having lunch at a nearby restaurant, our friend realized that her bag had been sliced open and her wallet was stolen. We've heard numerous stories of Guatemala being dangerous, and this brings it home for us. 

What have we done to protect ourselves? In addition to the obvious things, we: only travel with a photocopy of our passport, have hidden zippered pockets in our pants, use a homemade money belt, have a fake wallet (with a few bucks and some old cards), spread our money around our pockets, and keep important things on our body - not in a bag. We have a few other secret tricks. Email me if you're interested.

24 September 2009

Why wait?

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.                                                                              This quote, by Anne Frank, was written on a mirror at a cafe in Antigua.

15 September 2009

The Travel Plan

After ten great years in Davis, I'm finally leaving. Kristin and I have eliminated most of our worldly possessions. We are leaving the U.S. September 20, 2009 and will keep travelling as long as we can.

Right now, we're going to Central America from Sept-Nov, then 5 months in South America. Hopping over to NZ in March (tentatively), then going to east coast of Oz. Connect the dots from their to mainland Asia, head west in a very circuitous (think "Family Circus") fashion. Mid-East, Africa, EU and Eastern Europe and the 'Stans. We're wildly guessing at being in Europe in Summer of 2011.

First stop is Guatemala. We'll be staying with a friend's mom, who runs an NGO called Avivara. They run a very efficient program that works directly with local rural schools, empowering teachers, providing much needed supplies, giving out scholarships, and even delivering meals for the students. Please take a few minutes to check out their website and consider donating.

We're taking a small backpack each - about 3000 cu. in. or 50 liters in size. We'll also carry a generic school backpack to use on day trips and food shopping. We want to stay with as many friends as possible, so please let us know if you have a family member or friend in an upcoming country. We'll try couchsurfing and of course camp everywhere possible. We believe these exposures really make the trip better.

To travel this long, we really need to keep our costs down. Good thing we don't like to eat out, drink or party! We'll be enjoying the slower aspects of the journey, like walking around town, enjoying parks, cooking local foods, and taking loooong bus rides.

I hope to use this blog as a tool to reach other travelers, inspire would-be trekkers, and help our friends and family in understanding what we're doing, why we're doing it, and how. I love sharing stories and photos. My better half has put her own blog up.

Lastly, we hope that our paths cross sometime during these next two years. We'll do our effort to meet you.

06 September 2009

Sprucetop Review

Kristin's cousin, Brian, plays in an acoustic folk/rock band called Sprucetop Review. We got to see them perform yesterday at an amphitheater near Minneapolis. The band dedicated an Irish song to me and Kristin. I have two short clips with not-so-good sound quality, but you'll get the picture. Video 1. Video 2.

04 September 2009

Looking California, Feeling Minnesota

Our road trip went really well. In total, we met up with:
  • Cindy, Drew, Laura, Katie in Hilt, OR
  • Casey in Portland
  • Eric (and his mom), Todd, Kate, Sarah and Eli in Seattle
  • Brooke and Mark in Pullman, WA (near Moscow, ID)
  • Kerrie and Bob in Bozeman, MT - on their 37th wedding anniversary
  • Dennis, Shirley and Janine at Firehole Ranch near Yellowstone National Park
  • Kristin's entire family and many, many friends in Minnesota
It's best just to watch the photo slideshow (below). We had a fabulous trip, thanks to our wonderful hosts. At the end of it, we are flying back to Davis where we'll have 10 days to empty our house and leave for our 2 years of travelling.