A Passion for Peace
Responsibility, respect and a loving connection with all beings and for this Earth we share.
La Pura Vida in Costa Rica
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Last week we were at the beach, the Caribbean coast in a place called Puerto Viejo. It was beautiful, calm, and slow. I enjoyed it immensely, and also find such environments a bit confronting because they highlight my ever-present opportunity to learn the art of relaxing. I feel such a strong pull to be working and doing, it can drive me crazy and be hard to balance with letting go. I'm practicing deeply, though, and back in San Jose in addition to quilting, writing, meditating, cooking, shopping and keeping house, yoga, being with Luke & making some friends here, dancing, reading spiritual texts, keeping up with friends & family, and future planning work, I am volunteering on an organic farm in the suburb where we live, an hour's walk across town from our place. Here is a picture from their facebook page which shows a bed and a bit of a much bigger project. Three young friends started planting on a lot owned by one of their uncles who's in a legal battle at the moment so the only allowable use of the land is organic farming as luck would have it. At the moment there's lots of lettuce and kale, radish, cucumber, herbs, green onion, hot pepper, and eggs from the chickens. I meditate to the sound of the chickens clucking with my hands in the earth. I love it. (Photo by Slow Farms Escazu)
From our perch we watch the clouds drift across the city bringing afternoon showers this rainy season. The drip of rain and Luke's guitar-playing fill my ears as I click away at the keys. I've been wondering why we didn't come here first instead of a big city like Lima, but then we wouldn't appreciate this as much if we hadn't done that first. So I'll just love where we're at and dream of moving up even more when we move to the US later this year. Thanks for reading this, sending lots of tropical love to you. <3 br="">3>
Posted byValerie at 11:45 PM
And now we are here.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
When we were in Santiago I felt so at ease compared to the rest of our initial landings in the cities of central and South America. It is much more similar to the US in my estimation, and looking around at friendly, overweight people, streets full of shopping, McDonald's and Pizza Hut's and people fiddling with their fancy PDA's all around me, I felt simultaneously comfortable and at ease, and also uncomfortable that this was what felt comfortable to me. Soon after arriving I did my first Vipassana meditation retreat: 10 days without speaking, two vegetarian meals daily (a bit hard for gluten- and dairy-free especially when people act out a bit of a group dynamic feeding frenzy), and 10-14 hours a day of meditating, or at least sitting still with yourself and just being. It was certainly challenging, useful, at times incredibly full of pain, at other moments full of bliss, mind and body heavy and full and busy in periods, and clear and light and quiet in others...a grab-bag. The idea of sitting still and not becoming overwhelmed or scared by your pain or attached to or chasing your pleasure but just being with whatever is there is very appealing as a practice and a life philosophy. Very restorative-sounding, and restoring is exactly what I need lately before additional South America adventuring and US visa waiting... (Photo: drawing of a tiger I made)
Posted byValerie at 6:38 PM
Life in Lima
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
In addition to Spanish, our main adventures have been a crash course in living in a tiny space together and learning about and accepting challenging aspects of Peruvian culture. Living is going smoothly now for the most part, an occasional 'ahh! this stupid tiny kitchen!' outburst from one of us notwithstanding. And yes, it is challenging to live in a studio without a kitchen sink, but we are managing very beautifully lately. The cultural aspects most challenging for us are two-fold: people lacking the ability to say no (and so promising things they do not follow through on and taking personally our holding them accountable for this), and lacking respect for timing (a meeting scheduled for 2pm could easily begin at 3:30pm with no phone call to say anyone is running late). But knowledge is power, and we are accepting more and learning to plan according to the norms here. And we have met so many wonderful people we are enjoying making friends here immensely.
Our apartment is on a (relatively) quiet street in arguably the safest/easiest to live as a Westerner part of Lima, called Miraflores ('look at flowers' is literally the meaning of the name). I say "relatively" quiet because the construction everywhere screams out as Luke said yesterday, 'Look at me, I'm Peru, I'm growing at 7% a year'! I walk around the city often with earplugs, or at least earbuds, in. There is a lot of noise pollution here.
Air pollution too, potentially, but I suspect it may also be pollen we are not used to, and the fact that Lima is the second-largest desert city in the world after Cairo, but you'd have a hard time realizing it looking around because there is so much vegetation. I adore the parks here, and we live near quite a few. It is such a blessing to have trees to snuggle up to and grass to plop down upon, especially compared to other South American cities where aspects of nature were sorely lacking (Photo: Parque del Amor in Miraflores)
I have found work with an interesting project here called 'The Institute of Latin American Restorative Practices' affiliated with a program in the US. Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a training in restorative practices in Spanish, and am now working on helping improve the training even more and integrating opinions of participants. The main thrust of the work at the moment is the creation of a 'restorative zone' in a challenging neighborhood in inner-city Lima, based on an ongoing and successful project in Hull, England. It is certainly an ambitious undertaking, and every person who is trained in restorative practices and begins implementing aspects of them into their lives, whether in schools, homes, or wherever, is already contributing to improving communication and community in my estimation, and so the project has already been a great success 2 years in.
We may not be experts yet by any stretch, but our Spanish is definitely improving, and our confidence increasing too so that we are planning a trip to the jungle to get off the beaten path a bit soon. We've also had a couple visiting friends of mine pass through Lima, and it has been a real treat to see them too. (Photo: courtesy of Colette since my camera died, a bar in Barranco called 'Ayahuasca')
I have been noticing for some time people often saying to me they hope I am happy. I used to wonder why, and lately I am finding it easier to be. Isn't that lovely!
Posted byValerie at 11:23 PM
Friday, October 5, 2012
Middle-aged men and little girls alike excitedly feeding ducks in a waterfront park with a Loch Ness monster statue in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
A waiter arguing with me that a flour tortilla is actually corn because that's what they order from the producer and that I will not be sick eating it. (I avoided it but ended up with soy sauce gluten poisoning anyway.)
Our bus into Peru dropping us at a Customs Patrol Center at 3am. The guards gave us two plastic chairs to sit/sleep in til sunrise while they watched a movie about a Hispanic woman who met American hippies on a beach and got drunk and drugged.
Luke seeing a huge splash in the sea and subsequently witnessing the breachings and spout-outpourings of a huge humpback whale migrating home while breakfasting at our hotel in Punta Sal, Peru. (Photo on left: hotel view)
When our taxi van got a flat tire in northern Peru the driver attempting to drive the wheel onto a rock in lieu of using a jack but instead using the rock to dislodge the entire front bumper.
Listening to a man rile a crowd of educators who then tranquilly marched with their students through the streets of Piura, Peru to protest low teachers' wages while police in full riot gear and shields stood by.
After a man in a fake janitor suit swept my bag away, our landlady and her maid marching me back to a mall in Arequipa, Peru, screaming at the security guards and insisting I file a police report, all of this concluding six hours later with a policeman writing a report typed by lifting his finger before pressing into each key.
Border guards in Bolivia denying my dollars because they 'looked bad', saying it's real money in the US but not in Bolivia. (Only US citizens have to pay $135 visa, no one else.)
Ubiquitous in Bolivia: llama fetuses and dried baby llamas used for religious ceremonies and sugary popcorn that has the texture of a cheese puff. (Photo on right: a real llama)
Everywhere we go finding few parks with grass fenced off so as not to be used and being chastised by police not to touch it or even to lie on each other's lap on a bench.
Following "Love Day" a series of weddings in a church on a busy street in La Paz with musicians, guests throwing confetti and the couple dancing in the street outside while another wedding is taking place inside.
Feeling like I was sitting at the top of the world on an Andean mountain of higher altitude than Everest base camp, meditating and taking in the view. (Photo on left: the Andes outside La Paz)
Finding (British) Indian food for the first time on this trip. Verdict: tasty and permanently out of papadum.
Hiking pre-Incan ruins of Tiwanku/Aymara at a famous temple site and on Isla del Sol where a mesa is still used for ceremonies near the sacred Puma rock where they believe life began at Lake Titicaca. (Photo below: Isla del Sol)
Our cute Spanish colonial loft-like apartment in Cusco, Peru, home of the Incas, gateway to Machu Picchu, and so full of tourists that a sweet-natured shoeshiner spending 10 minutes cleaning up Luke's converse knock-offs in a park asked for $15 for his services instead of the local price of $2. (Luke told him the shoes cost less than $20 to begin with.)
Scouting out the local market of food and artisan wares, complete with cow and pig heads for sale, though what you use them for I am not quite sure. (I'll spare you the picture.)
Posted byValerie at 2:08 AM
La Vida Loca
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Then last night while enjoying evening air and a view from the roof of our apartment building, a school employee showed up with a stranger and started showing him around and asking us questions such as where to recommend this man buy his groceries. We quickly followed them back downstairs and realised that the man had just moved into our shared apartment. Last week another couple from the US stayed here with us and the Ecuadorian couple, which was fun and we were warned ahead of time, but this time someone just showed up, and besides not having cleared any space in the refrigerator or cabinet out of politeness, I had made no space in my mind to feel safe in sharing the apartment with someone new. In addition, I felt incredibly disrespected that we were not so much as informed when we were with various employees over the past two days, nor by the one with whom we live. This stirred up a lot of anger and feelings of unsafety in me, and I spent some time processing those, which included writing a kind but strong email to the school director explaining how I felt and how incredibly preventable this entire experience was. Luke looked at the email through his Western male lens and thought I talked an awful lot about feelings which men may find tricky to take, but I pointed out that the Spanish culture here is better versed in emotional health than we Anglo and Germanic westerners tend to be and that I think he will respond well.
The next morning I awoke to an apologetic email from the director full of responsibility for "causing me such distressing feelings"and assuring me he will speak to the staff and make some changes to policy so that this does not happen again. Imagine our surprise when upon returning to our apartment during a break from class there was a sign on the refrigerator 'Please Leave Space for Other Students in the Refrigerator.' Outrage! We would have made more space if we had but been informed! We quickly went back downstairs to school to speak to the employee we live with, and he apologised that he keeps doing things without telling us first and said the sign was intended for people next week because many new residents are coming to stay after we leave this weekend, and that because of our not being informed last night, the director sent him new instructions to help inform with signs around the apartment. Relief and laughter soon followed. What an unnecessary series of events! (Photo: bamboo scaffolding holding up a concrete building)
Later Luke looked in the freezer to gather some ice. Inside the freezer was our avocado. Por que? (Why?) Which employee would put our avocado that was sitting on top of the refrigerator into the freezer, and why? We left it on the counter to thaw. I don't have much hope that it will be remotely edible, and I have never heard of a frozen avocado. As I sit here typing this, I am informed by Luke: our avocado has melted. Crazy? Maybe just a bit. (Photo: sunset on the Ecuadorian coast)
PS, an update: In case you were wondering, thawed avocados have the texture of rubber. We didn't eat it.
Posted byValerie at 3:42 AM
Impressions & an Electrocution in Ecuador
Monday, August 20, 2012
However, there is always the shower, and ours are suicide showers, so-called because one must first flip an electric switch and that heats the water coming out of the showerhead. When we first tried it, Luke got a shock. An electrician came and spent all day in our room, then said it was safe. That night Luke got another small shock and asked me to come and see. Super-sensitive Valerie touches the knob where one turns on the water and ZAP sparks and smoke pour out of the top of the showerhead and I sustain an electric shock throughout my body, complete with red skid-marks up my arm, adrenaline pumping. We got a new shower the next day. And the day after that, the toilet bowl exploded and leaked its contents all over our floor. Always an adventure!
Sometimes I wonder where the day has gone completing simple tasks in such places. For example, Luke went fresh veggie and fruit-shopping at the market this morning while I wrote papers of Spanish vocabulary words and posted them all over the house, such as 'Estufe-Stove' and 'Cortina-Curtain,' etc. When he returned I washed and cut the fruits and veg for the week (this took 1.5 hours). Then I made lunch which required also washing some greens for a salad (1 hour).
We're continuously told that Ecuador has a huge crack cocaine problem and that it's unsafe to walk the streets (or the beach) at night, but we've yet to encounter anything suspicious ourselves. We've been most freaked out so far walking a few blocks in Guatemala City one night, but we're not looking to test it out either. In Guatemala people were surface-friendly but seemed often a bit in shock or shut down, like an entire country still processing trauma and scared to open up to themselves and each other, and certainly outsiders. We never got much past surface conversations about history, politics and people's needs and desires, and I don't think that's just the Spanish-speaking barrier. It's a beautiful and relatively peaceful place these days but has many depths yet to unearth. A former president fled to Mexico and was extradited back in 2010, was recently acquitted of money laundering charges in Guatemala but faces extradition and trial for similar charges in the US. People cautiously ask for change and seek to better themselves through work, education and celebration of culture (more than 50% of the country is considered indigenous Mayans), while also cautiously concerned that the country could collapse and the government is not to be trusted, with genocides occurring into the 1980's. (Photo: Guatemala Mayan farm)
Posted byValerie at 10:12 AM
Monday, July 23, 2012
Posted byValerie at 9:38 PM
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