Food, Philosophy, Travel

Dear Diary

“But these days I feel more at home in a foreign land, wandering, with no direction in sight. Every little thing is new and exciting. Is it real life? Can someone perpetually be in motion? Is it human nature to plant roots in a certain place or can some of us coast freely, drifting throughout this vast world? Either way, I plan to find out. Because if it were not for adventure I would not be who I am, a vagabond.”

 

A stream of thought that floods my consciousness every time I arrive back stateside. And I cannot help but to dwell on the memories that were once present time experiences.

 

Did I appreciate them in the moment?

 

Probably.

 

If those occurrences involved food, then definitely.

 

While recently away I embedded with a Non Governmental Organization doing all sorts of photo work. This work mainly involved going out with members of the NGO to explore projects in rural villages outside on the San Martin municipality. Rural is not an understatement, some of these villages lack amenities we Americans take for granted. Every thing from running drinking water (that flows to the houses and schools), stoves that don’t require wood and fire, and even something as simple as electricity.

 

Despite the lack of basic necessities there’s pure joy and respect that the Maya people radiate and that positivity is simply inspiring.

 

A day’s work would start with a long ride out to the hillsides of Guatemala— far past paved (or safe) roadways. Many people hitchhike and are seen roadside or in the back of low riding pickup trucks, and I don’t just mean locals. I might know some certain Canadians who took, what I like to call, the anxiety highway.

 

After getting to the villages The NGO members and myself would check up on how projects are going and talk to families about everything from the projects themselves to everyday life. Me, speaking very little Spanish, would stand in observation; but often I would become the center of attention. Breaking in to Spanglish, I would try my best to navigate through a basic greeting. In such instances I was met with plenty of laughter and finger pointing. The emotions being thrown around in such contexts were playfully innocent.

 

Yet, it wasn’t until the work was all finished up that my school-kid-glee really commenced. As per what seemed like a customary procedure for welcoming guests into the villages, the women would begin to prepare lunch. Smoke flowed out of the small metal roof vents and mixed with the slightly cool Guatemalan breeze, the kitchen was alive. The petite Maya ladies would slap dough onto their hands; press with two fingers in somewhat of a circular motion, all while spinning the ball of corn dough. There was chicken stock simmering on the stove.

 

The sounds of cutting, scooping and the shuffling of feet are all one can hear. The smell was something dazzlingly intoxicating. Next thing I knew, there was a spread of food presented in front of me.

 

The dishes consisted of sopa de pollo— a sort of chicken stock that can come with or without rice. An assortment of fresh vegetables, that would most likely cost an arm in a leg back home in the states. Vegetables that just so happened to be grown in the same yard that I am butchering the Spanish language in and exactly where the chicken called home earlier in the morning. But wait a minute! I thought I knew what those charming womenfolk were up to! Are those, why yes, homemade and still hot corn tortillas.

 

The cuisine, the preparation, the thoughtful and respectful manners exuded by these wonderful people would be hard to recreate even in the finest of multiple starred restaurants.

 

As for my customs? I dug straight in and left nothing in my wake.

 

Tearing flesh from bone like a primitive beast, using only a corn tortilla to wipe my face and beard; the women watched in amusement as the crazy fuzzy man snatched the carefully constructed fare. I would seldom look up, only to see smiles along with cellphones, snapping photographs of me while a chicken bone protruded from my mouth.

 

Hopefully the photos will be put to good use.

 

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Food, Guilty pleasures, Philosophy, Travel

Mezcal Daze

Latin America, it just grabs you by the balls, dude.

Specifically speaking, Guatemala. Antigua, Guatemala.

The city is as hipster as Brooklyn but not as expensive or as pretentious (sorry, New Yorkers).

Everything is extremely straightforward, initially; but from the diverse cuisine to the live music that echoes in the bars and discotechs, it is hard to believe that you are in such a place as Guatemala. Upon arrival it becomes easy to be swept away by the mass amount of, well, nothingness.

But wait! Is that the Golden Arches? And another McDonald’s… And another one… Where am I?

In the midst of riding through the non-traffic-law-having and moderately chaotic streets of Guatemala City you will catch the sights, sounds, and even the smells of this intriguing country. There is everything from diesel exhaust to the exuberantly colorful chicken buses. It is an ease to find bustling markets, and like mentioned above, plenty of fast food joints. But shortly after you leave the city, via the Pan-American Highway, the landscape and diverse topography take hold. Mountains, volcanoes, seedy highway roads with slow moving semi-trucks – distractions all demanding complete human attention.

The ride could be comparable to going through the Appalachian Mountains in the United States – swaying through the curvy and vertical terrain in areas such as Tennessee. That is to say if it wasn’t for the fact that this is Guatemala and the country has an astoundingly unique draw to it.

This is Latin America – possibly at its best.

About an hour from the hustle and bustle of Guatemala City comes the region of Antigua.

Upon arrival the aesthetic scene can be equated to stepping back in time. There are low roofed buildings with cracking paint, a palate of brilliantly colored tiendas, and rough stone streets. Streets that may be as wise as your great grandfather— they’ve seen some stuff, man!

Along with the eclectic mix of locals and tourists it might be an understatement to say a person could get lost here. Hey, don’t take my word for it. Just ask those bearded ex-pats serving up mezcal at the abundance of local bars. While combining modern capitalist refugees and wanders, Antigua may just have you at a loss and feeling rather befuddled; however, this township can quickly feel like home.

At somewhere near 4,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by a few active volcanoes, who wouldn’t want to spend their days in an exquisitely charming municipality like this? I know that if there is a time I don’t come home from work, well, you know where to find me.

Hopelessly lost somewhere trying to horribly dance salsa.

SOCCERTOURNEY

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