Sunday, December 19, 2010

Este etraño poder

Aqui estoy. Aqui. Aqui. Aqui en Xela. Like returning to a memory. A memory in full, not selected for its sweet moments, its good times, its warm hearts. A memory so close to reality, one that doesn´t edit its self to my liking. Such a strange power to return to a place like this one. So far away in distance, in style, in way, in life. Just money, just a plane, just ten hours and I return to the dream. The dream has lived this past year as I have lived, one more freckle, one more heartbreak, one more crack in the cement, one more pair of adidas over the power line. Physically we travel through this time space side by side. Almost undecernably the same is this place I have loved and set free. The red tin roofs, the unfinished cinderblock buildings, the clothes on the lines, the dogs in the street, the bus culture, the flowers in the cemetery. I am recollected by the characters of this dream, Doña Lucy, the orange juice lady, Leonora and her old mother, who hug me and pinch my arms, by the children and teenagers I spent so much time with, the chubby girl at the food carts in Parque Central. My best relations here expected my arrival, awaited my magical return from the mysterious lands of the north. The place where money is cultivated, where wealth explodes, where poor volunteers go and return rich with Christmas presents for all. They swallow this impossible reality with little questioning, grace me with the their acceptance of the unknown.
The strange power overwhelms me, earases the past year of my life. So many times I´ve questioned the knowledge, the experiences of the time I´ve spent here. What are they worth? In what context are they applicable? What good is this understanding I´ve gained? And suddenly it all makes sense. As I get in a cab and bargain for the price, as I take the right chicken bus to the right destination, as I go where I want to go flawlessly, comfortably, making friends along the way, opening my heart to a place that so many fear and misunderstand. My education here was priceless. Every hard earned lesson blesses me with the wisdom that follows.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Of gifts and goodwill

Many of you have recieved this already, but I thought I would post it just in case.

My dearest friends and families,
As many of you know I spent the greater part of 2009 volunteering for a non-profit organization in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala known as EDELAC (Escuela de la Calle). Fifteen years ago EDELAC was founded to build and sustain a primary school in one of the poorest areas of the city where no other existed. Today it provides over 200 children, grades 1 through 6, with free education. A dormitory, El Hogar Abierto, was later created as a safe, abuse free environment for children without families or whose families live in an area with no available educational services. Almost all funding comes from the hard work of a group of volunteers known as the Quetzal Trekkers. The Quetzal Trekkers work as hiking guides, leading tourists on multi-day treks throughout the highlands of Guatemala, with 100% of their proceeds going to the children of EDELAC and El Hogar Abierto.In my time as a guide for Quetzal Trekkers I witnessed a fully functioning organization run on the goodwill, dedication and love of its past and present volunteers and associates. I was blessed to spend time living, learning and playing with the children and teenagers of EDELAC and El Hogar Abierto. I left not only with new friends, but with a family to whom I am connected and care about.
So in the spirit of this holiday season I am planning a journey to Guatemala. I would love nothing more than to share gifts, money, supplies, gear, joy and love with children who deserve every resource they can get to succeed. I am presenting you with the chance to give to those who desperately need the help, to a place where a little goes an incredible distance. Please help me to provide the faces, hearts and stories I know and love, with the basic opportunities most of us take for granted. I am accepting any and all donations. Please see the following information for the website my friend Jon set up for internet donations. Feel free to pass this letter on to whomever you think would be interested in donating. Please call (503-708-3564) or email ( if you have any questions or if you want to come with me (I’m serious, lets go!).
Many thanks,

A Guate Christmas

Push some buttons, type some numbers, and I have spent more money in one second than I have in the past eight months. A plane ticket from Portland to Guatemala City. Such lanes of transit exist. I will walk out the door of this house of friends, cross the wet pavement, damp leaves, coffee roasting, beer brewing, yoga studios of Portland. I will board a long, winged, slightly uncomfortable box and, just a lapse of time later, find myself in the familiar chaos of Guate. A journey that once took the greater part of the year will be knocked out in eleven hours.

This journey is different in nature. I am returning to the place I lived, the people I know, to celebrate Christmas, to bring cheer. I was invited to help my friend Jon (see old blogs) who started a fundraiser to give gifts to the children and teenagers we volunteered with like we did last Christmas. The invitation came to me at exactly the right time. A time when my mind was open to the idea, when no plans cluttered the space of my future, when I had just made a little money. ¿Por que no? So now, we have reached our goal, we are ready to go. My deepest graditude to all who have given.

Expectations loom heavy, but this journey is a simple one. Give gifts, give love, give joy to those who welcome it with out beaurocratic nonsense. Share the blessings of my situation, as a citizen of a country that offers more opportunity than ever imaginable here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

pound for pound

Some how, through the twisting, convoluted turns of the universe, I have found myself in Europe... One may ask "how this could happen," I would answer, "On an airplane." I am in Liverpool, England, where the cars are hatchbacks, the lips have mustaches and the track suit is king.
Of all the ways to travel, by bicycle must be my favorite. It is a path used for hundreds and hundreds of years by horses pulling boats up and down the canal system from Leeds to Liverpool. Finding the begining in the city is the greatest task, I ask many people for directions, I am lost, it is so much like traveling in Mexico. I find the path finally and ride toward the outskirts of town. The water of the canal is full of garbage, the brick wall banks are crumbling and graffitied. I pass factory after factory, many steaming and buzzing, but even more that are lifeless and deteriorating, making the long journey back from where they came. Eventually the banks become reeds, ducks paddle on their belly boats, ancient gnarled beech trees line the way. It is Sunday and sunny. Many people are out letting the rare appernce of sun warm their hair, touch their blue-white skin. Fishermen are a plenty. I can only imagine what they would be catching- tiny minnows, a boot perhaps. I fight the urge to tell them stories about the rivers in Montana or Alaska. I ride through green rolling hills with little fences made of stone, under tiny arched bridges just wide enough for a horse and cart, past old farmhouses with thatched roofs and cabbage patches. Boats toot up and down the canal on Sunday outings. Families picnic on lawns in English gardens. Beer is drank at tiny pubs by people who's ancestors drank beer at the same tiny pub. After miles and miles I turn and ride through a forested area. I call it Sherwood forest. I close my eyes, briefly, and imagine this land as it once was. Covered same dark tree blanket as this one. There are almost no forests left in England. I will see none in my time here. I strain to feel the spirit of the land, but all I feel is the long term presence of people. The wilderness has long been worked from the earth, the mystery has dwindled. I am so greatfull for the land that raised me. How it taught me, shaped me, how my spirit mirrors its own.
Down farm lanes, through feilds, I arrive finally at my destination. Its Simon's dad's house- everyone is drinking beer in the garden. I crack one open and lay in the grass. God save the queen.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Good life in the Badlands

What a challenge to keep up with the rapid flow of life... I am realizing the power of communicating, staying in touch, of writing this blog. This came to light upon meeting a follower of my writings here, thanks John, I am great full for the medium of internet and the ease of this method of sharing.
The universe has swept me up, carrying me to a place few people consider. South Dakota, Pine Ridge reservation, a country inside our country. People compare the towns of the Res to those of third world countries, a bit dramatic in my opinion. They are a little reminiscent of Mexico. There is a closeness of relationships like Mexico too. Everyone is related, into everyone's business, lots of drama, much heart, much compassion. I am invited here by my friend Sam, whom I met traveling. He is interning on a ranch here with another woman named Nisa. They both have education in Permaculture and are working on a variety of projects. Brian is the owner of this land, the impetus of this movement. He has great vision of bringing health, vitality, and economy back to this area. He wants to teach the people here to sustain themselves, to gain Independence from a system that has left them at the bottom. Brian is a good, good man, he has many ideas but a hard time following through with them. He is an inventor, there are mountains of rusting machinery all about the property, crazy stuff made from other stuff, projects minutes away from completion. A lot of Sam and Nisa's work has been purging and organizing crap. This will be a classroom, a variety of examples and demonstrations. A huge garden has been planted, where I spend much time working. There are plans for beehives, teepees, outdoor kitchens and showers, aquaculture, strawbale buildings and much more. My role to is to support this project and this community in any way I am called to. Lots of labor, lots of sweat, dust and sunburn, lots of Budweiser on the back porch as the sun goes down, sleeping so deeply.
In my free time I have been riding the horses here. There are over 35. I ride a horse called Rain. She is jumpy, she will bolt into a lope at any given time. Sam fell off of her while riding double bareback with one of the kids here. The boy broke his arm. Rain is a wild creature. I ride her over the range, as fast as she goes. We fly over the prairie on the surest of steps. She scares me and I love it. My dreams of horses encouraged me to come here, to the Lakota, to these Badlands.
My spirit sings the secret of life- keep it interesting, make decisions with the wisdom of my dreams, keep my heart simple and close to nature, close to the earth. I am safe, I am blessed, life is abundant!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dear Jon...

This is a letter I wrote to my friend Jon. He wrote to me first, telling me he would be returning to the states from Mexico after more than a year. He asked me what was going to happen to him.

Saludes Hermano...I wonder if you are back yet. Here is what will happen to you upon entering the USA:You will fly over huge cities and suburbs and contemplate the masses individually living their own little stories. Freeways, tall buildings, subdivisions, memories you know you know but havent been real in so long. A big black lady at customs with long fake nails will stamp your passport and be a little rude. An awareness will creep over you that you are dirtier, scrapier, smellier, than everyone else. Well dressed people on iphones will surround you, busily bustling on their way to somewhere else. Despite your selfconciousness no one will notice you. At this point you should do something really weird or out of context to be sure no is paying attention, like fall to your knees kissing the airport carpet or do a little jig or something. You may use the bathroom and stay in there for awhile, gawking in disbelief. Toilet seats, soap, clean mirrors, mother fucking PAPER TOWELS!!! and you will flush the toilet paper down the toilet. On the street there are new cars everywhere, there is electricity everywhere all the time, the night is not even dark. Things look expensive and cutting edge, like out of a future fantasy. Machines do the simplest of tasks. A cop speeds by, pulling over someone who hasnt fully stopped at a stop sign and you laugh maniacally. As they write a two hundred dollar ticket a black cloud silences your laughter, you remember the fear you have forgoten for the law. You'll go to buy cigarrettes and realize they cost six dollars, you settle for a pint of the cheapest whisky they have and keep it on hand in your pocket. You pay in tiny little american monies and get a tiny little reciept marking the end of the transaction. You travel to your destination strangley knowing the way so well, you pass things that make you want to weep with nostalgia, thats where I had my first kiss, that place makes the best chessy cajun tater tots in the land, etc. You will run to the arms of whom ever is expecting your arrival, run run run. Here you will cry, and cry. You will attack the dog and together roll on your backs kicking your legs in the air twisting around. Its the same house, the same smells. You know this place.
Every moment will wash over you bringing old but new sensations bringing waves of emotions you've never felt and can't name. I am still trying to name some of them, there is the type of anxiety felt five minutes before you see someone that you were once in love with and maybe still are, there is the feeling that comes from the eyes of your friends as they note how you've changed, the feeling of the distance and time you've traveled as you look in the mirror, shaking out sonora sands from your tent into the water logged soil of Oregon, losing your tan, never speaking spanish in your dreams. There will be the moments of exstacy, hugging your friends and not letting go for minutes,wild dance parties in the living room to the talking heads untill the floor is sticky with beer and your legs are too tired to dance, sitting in the sun on the front porch and telling stories for hours. Other things may slap you in the face like renewing your library card and realizing you have thirty two dollars in overdue fines, getting chastized by middle aged ladies in the park for letting your guatemalan street dog run free, smiling at a stranger only for them to turn away from you, people asking what the plan is, whats the next step? Who knows... stay open to each and every possibility, don't get tied down, be free. Challenge the pressure of the culture that wants us to DO something. Maybe I'll do nothing. Who the eff knows...
Te echo de menos.Meliza

Saturday, March 13, 2010

east of west, west of east

The day I wrote the rest of this blog was the first day I spent in Bahia de Kino. Since my last entry I've driven all the way here, Sonora, after staying with Aunt Mitch and Uncle Humberto in Zihuatenejo. Kim and Jon traveled on together, and I continue with my dog. .

I woke with the sound of the waves and Chuchi barking. A thick fog hangs low over the flat water, the mysteroius land I drove into last night remains a mystery. Crossing hours of desert, sage brush, siguaros, dusty cattle, handsome cowboys, to reach this place of contradiction. The fog lifts, the island mountains, dry and treeless rising steep out of the pale green sea. There are many snakes out there, the deer get so thirsty they swim to shore. On the beach I find the tresure greater than I could ever imagine, sea shells, sea rocks, sea bones, sea wood. Crab shells, conch shells, oyster shells, long slender twirly shells, short stubby rolls, pinks, purples, irridecent oily shine. The sand isn't even sand, its just tiny shells and bits of shells.I reslove not to pick any up until I have seen them all. The are the testiment to the abundance of life beneath the surface of the water. This place has a strange magic, the bones of the ocean rest among the bleached cowskulls of the desert.
Its the first time I've been alone this long. The past year has been practice for this leg of the journey. I'm calling all of the skills I've aquired to use. Last Saturday the subie busted up its wheel bearings. We'll be waiting on parts for another week or so. So I am making peace where I am. I am only 4 hours from the border. So here I am still. Every night I watch the sun set, watch the first stars come out, thank God I'm here, right where I'm supposed to be. The universe is providing all I need, teaching me to be patient, to move slow, maybe I didn't want to go home anyway.

melissa e

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Road dirt

Just a quick catch up, I´ve left Guatemala. Its been about a month now. Before I completely packed up I journeyed south on local buses with my dog, while she was still little enough to sit on my lap and while people still thought she was cute. We made it to El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and to the border of Costa Rica. Long, long stories later I am headed north, everyday getting closer to where I started over a year ago. Well, not everyday...

Kim, Jon, Chuchi and I drive north from San Christobal through the hot, dry mountains into the state of Oaxaca. As the sun is getting low we turn off the coast road on to a rutted track leading out to the beach. The sun has set but there is still light as we arrive. The path ends at a grouping of thatched huts on a bluff above the beach, a long swooping cove, visable to the very end. Tall, green mountains rise above, backing the turn of sand. The water is turquiose blue, the sand is light and fine. We meet the dueño, Manuel, of what looks to be the only defined establishment, an ancient, crumbling cinder block structure with no windows or roof. He invites us to stay, offers space under the palapa, or a hammock (he sleeps in the other). Chuchi wears herself out playing with the random mut dogs. We sleep like babies.
In the morning the sun rises above the far end of the cove. The sky is orange, pink, purple, blue. The fishermen gather, shirtless, with 5 gallon buckets, around their lanchas resting on the sand. They work together and push the boats out before the sun is up. We spend the day playing, digging hole forts, bobing in the waves, observing the intricacies of crab society, being eternally greatfull that beaches still exist with out all inclusive resorts or condos. We are thankful for the car that brought us here.
The sky turns darker blue, the sun sinks behind the mountains, stars come out and shine with out the competition of electric lights. Manuel invites us to use his kitchen. He lights a cooking fire and I balance our pot of rice and veggies on the pieces of rebar laid over the top. He feeds us fresh caracol and we drink huge beers. The sound of the waves lulls us into the deepest sleep ever.