WRITTEN DECEMBER 25, 2009

COMPLETED:
Yoga on The Beach: D 1-26-2017 Bahamas
Visit an Active Volcano: D 11-20-2011 @ Masaya Volcano Nicaragua
Trek thru Ireland/Scotland/Wales: Partially D 1-14; Ireland
Outline a Full Family Tree: Started 11-26-2011
Live Mass by The Pope: D 2-14 Rome
Hot Springs in a Natural Spring: D 2-2014 Ladispoli, Italy
Montreal Underground: D 7-2012
Speed Dating: D 2-14-2013 Sarasota, Florida
Game @ The New Yankee Stadium: D 6-20-2012 Bronx, NYC
Learn to Edit a Movie/Video: D 2012
Bike The Freedom Trail in Boston: D 6-2012
Drink Mint Tea In Morocco: D 3-2014 Fes, Rabat, Chefchaouen
Windmills in Denmark: D 12-2013 Copenhagen
Eco-Traveling: D 2010 – 2018
Make Love Outside: D 11-2012 Siesta Key, Florida
Hike in Colorado: D 6-2011 Denver
Ride a Motorcycle: D 11-11-2011 Guatemala City
Take An Outside Shower/Bath: D 1-20-2011 Miami, Florida
Fish Market In Seattle: D 7-2-2011 Washington
Learn to Shoot a Rifle/Handgun: D 6-29-2011 MT (Rifle)/8-31-2020 WY (Handgun)
Learn All About Mushrooms: D 12-25-2010 Vero Beach, Florida
Plant A Tree: D 4-20-2011 North Miami, Florida
Open-Air Massage: D 1-26-2016 Bahamas
Swim with Manatees: D 3-3-2011 North Miami, Florida
Learn to Dye Traditional Balik with Natural Dyes: D 9-12-2019 Knoxville, TN
Learn to Surf: D 7-7-2010 Huntington Beach California
Walk the Golden Gate Bridge: D 10-12-2010 San Francisco, California
Learn to Throw a Real Punch: D 12-23-2010 Vero Beach, Florida
See Salmon Swim Upstream: D 10-22-2010 Redding, California
“Marley” Tattoo in Her Script: D 4-3-2010 Knoxville, Tennessee
Learn to Use a Sewing Machine: Tried & Tried, but No Luck
Build My Own Home: D 2017 Delray Beach, FL
See a Foreigner Sworn-In: D 2-1-2010 Knoxville, Tennessee
Mt. Rushmore: D 8-24-2020 South Dakota
Free-Roaming Bison: D 6-8-2020 Antelope Island, UT
Own another Successful Business: D 2019 – 2020 AFEWCA Inc. Knoxville, TN
Visit Lizzie Borden’s House: D 7-14-2019 Fall Rivers, Ma
Sell a Piece of My Art: D 11-1-2019 to Scot Danforth Knoxville, TN
Convert Van/Bus into a Camper & Travel the USA: Currently traveling in Marlow 2020
Visit Pennsylvania Dutch Country: D May 2021
Play in the Colorado River: D Sept. 2020
Survive Covid-19 Pandemic = Added in 2020: D Spring of 2021 Read More

Comfrey

In 2011 I was volunteering in Little Haiti Miami. I lived in a treehouse working in a very urban setting. It was mostly awesome, but the neighborhood did/does have issues and a high crime rate. I was aware of this beforehand, but still really wanted to go to learn as much about their permaculture practices as possible. And I did learn so much there.

While I was there my treehouse was burglarized by three teenagers who often visited the property. I was disheartened to be helping the neighborhood and these kids, but have them steal from me.

Many wonderful things came out of this ordeal even though it was one of the hardest times of my travels. A big one was that the owners of the property taught me how to make their amazing salve. At the time, it was illegal to use, buy or sell, comfrey, the main ingredient in the salve. It was like learning underground secrets. This is thankfully no longer the case as it is an amazing herb! I will never use anything else again. I love it and have shared it with everyone I know. I have always had people want more.

Making and selling my salves, balms, exfoliators, and oils has been a great way to bring in extra money, but it is also such a great way for me to connect with people. I have taught workshops, made balms for specific needs, and connected with people on a deep level while telling them of my passion for comfrey.

I feel very blessed!

I have been asked many times over my travels where my favorite place is that I have been. It is Nicaragua. They refer to themselves as Nica which took getting used to.

I was there for a month and really enjoyed my time. For the most part it has been an extremely relaxing with a bit of amazing sightseeing thrown in and a LOT of laughs.

The locals are so nice. But I cannot understand a word of “Nica” Spanish. It is considered the hilly billy Spanish of Central America. At one point while house sitting in Managua I had a maid who got it in her head that if she screamed at me I would finally understand what she was trying to tell me. Didn’t work. Another time I asked for oil for my noodles (even doing charades to demonstrate what I was after). She smiled turned around and left the house. I was was perplexed and after a couple of minutes went ahead and ate my noodles sans olive oil. An hour later she represented me with an entire platter of fried chicken. Apparently my oil was her pollo.

My first host was a German woman working there. She picked me up at the bus terminal. Which was so different from the one I landed in in Guatemala. Although not the safest place in Managua (the capitol) it was like the one in El Salvador. With a hostel attached for people with layovers, food venues, inside lobby with security, and lots of staff to help. After we got my luggage we drove for several miles to Claudia’s home.

She has a beautiful house and full of so much great information about the country. I met her maid and got settled and then met Claudia in her backyard for a glass of wine. She gave me the run down on the area, where I was, how to get to public transportation, some suggestions on what to see, and tidbits. We met the next nite and enjoyed some time, but I was really run down by that time so I missed out on going with her to the German School for a dance. I was bummed, but wanted to be able to do the stuff we had planned for the next day.

Volcano – Masya

Rainforest – Chocoyero

chocoyo birds

Howling monkeys

Hash house Harrier

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I mentioned in one of my previous posts about entry and exit fees in Central America. They gouge you. Often I (along with other USA, Canadian, Australian and British) citizens were kept off the buses till we gave much more than all the other passengers. Being told that if we didn’t we could go back to the country we just paid to leave or they just calmly held our passports in their hands till we went to the window to pay the “required” amount. This was by far the most frustrating thing that happened in my trip through Central America.

There was actually two surfers I met between the countries of  Honduras and El Salvador who had each bought motorcycles in southern Mexico to ride and surf all the way to Panama. They had been gauged so much that along the way they had given away one of the motorcycles (they were being charged extra for each motorcycle along with the higher rates for being Australian) and were stuck between the two countries because they were $10 short for the passage into El Salvador. All of us who were not being allowed back on the bus till we anted up our higher price got our spare change and helped them get through too. What a mess.

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So there are some really different things that go on in buses in Central America that most US citizens are just not familiar with….

  • Stopping  when ever someone on the side of the road throws up their hand to get on.
  • A “spare” man standing at the open door of the bus YELLING to any and everyone where the buses destination was and to get on.
  • Dozens of people selling every kind of food, drink or wares up at the bus windows whenever it stopped. Homemade food from their home kitchens.
  • Livestock every where on the road.
  • People getting on the bus to sell food from a basket they were carrying on their head without the help of their hands.
  • People getting on the bus to play guitar and sing for tips (I could not resist any of the very very young boys that did this. Sucker tourist that I am).
  • How very loud the entire experience is.
  • How very crowded the buses are.
  • How VERY colorful the buses are.

Sites and Sounds of Chicken Bus Travel in Central America

Sites and Sounds of Chicken Bus Travel in Central America

Buses are not the only form of public transportation.

CA Travel and El Salvador

One of the cool things I found all over Central America are “rooms” to rent right in the terminals. So that you can get right on the bus from where you are staying. I did this a couple of times. Works out great when your bus leaves at some ridiculous time in the middle of the night or early morning.

Interesting se of a small space. Hostel El Salvador bus station.

Interesting use of a small space. Hostel El Salvador bus station.

I went through a lot of Central America by bus just stopping along the way to get out and relax, eat and explore a bit before traveling on. I had to get to Nicaragua by a certain date so I only had a short amount of time to get there. Traveling by car/bus in Central America is in no way like doing so in the States. So a hundred miles is a full days journey. I didn’t really know this ahead of time and so I was a bit crunched with sight-seeing time.

Of the countries I went through in Central America I very much want to go back and spend an extended period of time in El Salvador. I was really sad not to be able to explore it more than I did.

Here are several of my pictures from my ride south.CA Travel and El Salvador-003

CA Travel and El Salvador-002

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As I mentioned in the previous post I was told by my host to be in Guatemala way before sunset. We had made arrangements for him to pick me up at the local bus terminal  Zona 3 . Naively I had pictured a terminal station similar to the ones in the USA and Mexico. I was VERY wrong.

As I began to see there would be no way I would get to G.C. anytime close to sunset I asked one of the other passengers if I could use her phone. I tried calling Vladimir but he didn’t answer. So I just figured I would call when I got there. Well I was again WRONG. This is a crazy place. Basically a side walk goes around in an oval shape with Chicken Buses picking up and dropping people off in a system very similar to a conveyor belt. 

Chicken Buses Guatemala

Chicken Buses Guatemala

It was pitch black when I got there and the guard told me there was no way he would let me use the phone. He was not kind and laughed at me. I will admit I was scared. I know that currently G.C. has a reputation for a lot of crime. I did not know what I was going to do and must have looked a bit stricken, because a group of businessmen from the USA saw me and wanted to know how they could help. I asked if any spoke fluent Spanish, two did, and if they would call my host to tell him I had just arrived. One guy did that while the other got one of the nicer guards to tell him my situation in Spanish. 

Vladimir had already been to the station and thought I had stood him up. He had not received the call from me earlier from the other passengers phone. So he told the guy to have me stand under a light and not lose site of the guard and that he would be there in about 40 minutes. He then asked to speak to the guard. The guard, who speaks NO English, smiled at me and kept nodding the entire time he talked to Vlad.

Once everyone was off the phone the guys told me what Vlad had told them and that I was to stay right with the guard. He was going to take care of me. This guard would not let me go two steps away from him. He took my luggage in the hand opposite his gun and pulled it behind us as I walked with him on his route around the “terminal”.

My Guatemala Cop Friend

My Guatemala Cop Friend

BUT for me this wasn’t even the real scary part. Nope that was about to drive up. Vlad was good to his word and showed up a little over a half hour later. On a MOTORCYLCE. I am scared to death of them. I have two things on my Bucket List published here on this blog and I have already conquered one of them, well sorta, and that is guns. But I need to ease into these things (I did eventually take a ride on my friend’s motorcycle this past summer with a little less fanfare and really enjoyed it). So here I am in the  middle of one of the world’s most dangerous cities, with someone I have never physically met, in the middle of the nite getting on a motorcycle to cruise through town. I was terrified.

Here is a stock photo of the type of motorcycle.

Here is a stock photo of the type of motorcycle.

Off we went. My carry-on luggage between us, me on the back with a death grip on Vlad and him driving. Oh and no helmet. I would have been scared in that traffic in a car. This was crazy. He lives in a small village a half hour outside the city called, Santa Catarina Pinula. So cute. But back to the motorcycle ride. There is a foothill that goes straight up and then you go a city block and it goes straight down to get to the village. TERRIFYING!!!

Once we got there Vlad introduced me to his amazing family. I fell in love with his grandmother. 

PURE SWEETNESS

PURE SWEETNESS

But Vlad had found out that day that he had to go to Belize. And since I wasn’t going to get on that motorcycle again to save my life I was going to be staying with the family without Vlad. Problem is only he had any command of English, sorta. His 16 yr. old sister knows a few basic words, and we did have Google Translate for what that is worth, but we ended up having to get the 7 yr old nephew to come stay from up the street to be the translator. 

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I had such a wonderful time with this family. They treated me like royalty. I went with the kids and bought fruit and some goodies for the family and a large bouquet of colorful roses for the grandmother. She was so surprised. She told me she had never been given any flowers in her entire life. We also went to a sort of Swap Meet. It was so fun and I got some really cute clothes. I love them all.

Oh and I woke up the first morning by being thrown off the bed. It was my first out-of-the-country earthquake!!

After several days I went with the kids to the edge of town and caught a taxi to the bus terminal to go to El Salvador. But as a side note that crazy foothill was still really scary even in a taxi…..

So traveling thru Customs has been an experience. I’m quite behind in my blog entries so I can say in retrospect that my first real encounter of going from one country to another by land , especially if the country I was leaving was not my own, was a warning that is was not going to be smooth. Laughable many times, yes. Smooth, never.

I got to the border crossing at Tapachula, Mexico going into Ciudad Hidalgo, Guatemala on a very hot day. By the time I got to the actual area where Mexico ends, but before Guatemala begins (Yep, every country in Central America has about 1 km of nomad’s land, where you are not in any country. They do this to be able to charge you to leave one country and then to enter the next county. More on that in a minute….) I was sorely mad I had not brought water with me. 

Leaving Mexico I met a really good looking college guy. Very well built and tall. He offered to walk with me across the bridge and help me with my backpack. He was on his way to Nicaragua for a month. According to the internet and to locals this particular border crossing can be very busy unless one goes in the middle of the week first thing in the morning. Which is exactly what I did. 

As we walked we laughed about how dumb it would be to jump in the Rio Suchiate to get to the other side as we both had read about people doing to sneak into the countries.

Rio Suchiate

Then we noticed that it was weird how we didn’t have to really go thru any kinda customs at the Mexican border. Seemed strange to us both. Well, it is because we should have. Apparently there was a little booth that we were just suppose to “know” to go into. We figured out that, of course, this is a scam to make more money. Because you have to go back across said bridge to get your passport stamped that you have left Mexico or greatly risk that when you leave Guatemala they will hold you for not having officially ever left Mexico. The scam part being that all these old guys are just waiting outside to take you back in these cute little bicycle things.

pedal_taxis

I have no idea how they ride these things. It is hotter than a frying pan and they ride with two or three passenger, plus their luggage, sitting in the front. They are very sketchy about how much they are going to charge you. Saying one price, but charging double to bring you back even though they had told you the price for coming and going. Still all in all very much worth the ride just kinda shady way to go about it. So we went back and got our passports stamped to leave Mexico (the guy at Customs in Guatemala let us leave our luggage in the room so that was good). There was no exit fee to leave Mexico. Nor was there one to enter Guatemala.

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After getting through both border crossings we decided to take another “pedal taxi” and split the cost to the bus terminal.

Now, I want to stress, I could not make this next part up even if I tried. As I mentioned this was a young, tall, well-built, 20 something year old. college student riding along with me. So he was quite embarrassed and I was astonished when a one-armed man of about 65 grabbed my luggage to convince us to ride in his pedal-taxi instead of the other 30 taxis waiting for passengers. He rode us to the bus terminal several miles away like the pro he must be. Dodging some of the hugest livestock I have ever seen. At one point a gigantic domestic pig ran along side us to what I can only assume was a bit of exercise.

Sadly, I have no pictures of this ride except in my mind. Which I get a chuckle out of every time I think about it.

Now I was going to go as far as Guatemala City. I had made arrangements to stay with a Couch Surfing host by the name of Vladimir and his family. He has a very basic understanding of English, but told me over and over again in our emails to make sure I got to Guatemala City way before dark. How hard could that be with it only being a 119 miles away. Well apparently in a bus that stops whenever and where ever someone throws up their hand it can take forever. I am told the trip is normally about 6 hours. My trip was just under 8. There were the aforementioned on and off riders, but also lots of  immigration check points. These were very scary for me at first due to the heavily armed ~~ with Uzis and assault rifles mind you~~ guards. Friendly Uzi Carrying Side of the Road GuardBut after awhile, even as scared of guns as I have been my entire adult life, I got very used to it. Then I didn’t even seem to notice.

Next blog entry…..another Bucket List item checked off and my time in Guatemala City with such a lovely family for hosts.

I will definitely go back to southern Mexico. It has been one of my favorite places so far. It is simple beauty.

After taking an overnight bus from Oaxaca to Tapachula, Chiapashttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapachula,_Chiapas

chiapasI got on a village bus to my host’s home in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas. The village is called Cacahotán and is such a beautiful and lively hamlet at the bottom of a waterfall. 

This place is full of coffee bean farms. So pretty. Red berries hang full from each branch. Long oblong pans thick with picked beans in various stages of sun drying.

The sun is so much closer there than any other place I’ve been, except the Virgin Islands. Tapachula is the border city to Guatemala, the beginning of Central America.

My host, Ahmet is a great and talented guy. He is a 30 yr. old poet that also happens to co-own a newspaper. As with all my male hosts in this part of the America’s he lives with and helps his entire family. His parents and high school age brother live in the family home and at night lots of family comes over to play guitars and sing.

The family all welcomed me with huge smiles. Only Ameht and his teenage brother spoke any English at all and both wanted me only to speak it so they could practice.

After a cup of coffee (I arrived at their home at about 7am) Ameht and I went with his mom to visit his grandmother, sister and niece.  I love to go into the homes of the locals when I travel. You get a great sense of the people and area that way.  Ameht’s home consists of two stories with an attached garage and patio which his father has turned into a mechanics garage for their income.

An interesting fact I noticed while I was in Mexico and Central America is that for such a huge area for coffee importing they, for the most part, only serve instant coffee in their homes. Weird.

Once I had met the family I went with Ameht and his mom to see his grandmother, aunt, and niece. Again I got to see other local’s homes. I have to say I was quite a novelty for them. Lots of smiles while they looked me over so that was cool. After we left there, Ameht told me he wanted me to go with him to this “little get together” for a friend of his.

What he didn’t say is that it was an event for his friend who happened to be a famous poet there. Ameht was the emcee for the event and a painting was unveiled and dedicated. Ameht is a poet, I have posted one of his poems in the “pages” section of my blog. We went to the event at a place called, Campo experimental Rosario Izapa.

Agricultural Learning and Experimenting Center

Agricultural Learning and Experimenting Center

It was so much fun. I met so many interesting artist, poets, politicians. I had a wonderful time and would very much get involved in this Center if I lived nearby.

The full day I was in Ameht’s home and Southern Mexico he took me to visit his friend’s Hotel up the mountain. He had to do some work on his newspaper (which is a wonderful online periodical about cultural, political and news events in Chiapas http://periodicoensuma.blogspot.com/ and I recommend reading it and or “liking” the fb page).

I loved the van ride to the Hotel. It was majestic. We went there for Ameht to work on the bio of a famous chronicler (who own’s the hotel), Antonio Valera Saá.

Chronicler Antonio Valera Saá

Chronicler Antonio Valera Saá

Mr Valera Saá and his  family opened their arms up to me. Fed me and asked me many questions. I was part of the family for the day. It is a BEAUTIFUL hotel that overlooks the mountain into Guatemala. The name of the hotel is Hotel Colonial Campestre in Union Juarez. 

Hotel Colonial Campestre in Union Juarez

Hotel Colonial Campestre in Union Juarez

The next morning I said all my goodbyes and followed Ameht through the town to where I could find a ride to the Tapachula, Mexico border with Guatemala. I was leaving Mexico and starting my journey through Central America.

Thankfully Ameht went with me because I never would have found the cheap ride in what looked to me like a WWII tanker. It was fun and the guy gave me a ride for free as long as I taught him some words in English. I was on my way to Guatemala…

The Tree of Life

OAXACA, MEXICO

I really loved my time in Southern Mexico. I look forward to going back.

The people are just so kind and happy. In fact this is true throughout Mexico and Central America. I had read and heard so much hype about all the dangers from drug cartels and kidnappers, but found none of that.

I felt as safe there as anywhere I traveled so far and safer than several places I’ve been to in the USA.

I got to Oaxaca late because of the bus issues. At the station stood my new Couch Surfing host and his two other surfers. They were all smiles and I was so touched they came to get me and make sure I got back to the house safely.

My host, Christopher, is 18 and lives with his wonderful parents.  They Welcomed me with open arms. His dad had been a taxi driver in San Francisco where Christopher had been born. Now he owns and drives what the call a TukTuk. 

He spoke some English. But the mom did not. So we smiled a lot and nodded a lot and I said Si, Si, Si a lot (actually that was my mantra through all of my travels south of San Diego).

We spent a bunch of time in the town square drinking Micheladas (Mexican slang for “my little cold one”). This is one of my new favorite drinks and have made it several times since coming back to the States… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelada

RECIPE:

1 ice cold Mexican beer: Corona or Negra Modela for example

2 tablespoons of course salt

1 tablespoon of chili powder

2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice

1-2 dashes of your favorite hot sauce

1 dash of soy sauce

1 dash of Worcestershire sauce

Ice

Black pepper

Lime wedge for garnish

1. Mix together the salt and chili powder on a small plate. Rim a beer glass with a little lime juice and then dip in the salt and chili mixture to cover the top of the glass.

2. Fill mug with ice (yes, ice in a beer is popular in Mexico and other parts of Latin America).

3. Add lime juice, hot sauce, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and a pinch of black pepper.

4. Slowly pour in beer. The salt on the rim will cause the beer to foam up, so be careful while adding beer.

5. Stir. Enjoy.

One night all of the Couchsurfers and our host, Christopher, went to see a wonderful outdoor concert. It seemed so magical as the stage was set between two ancient churches on the plaza. The lights came down from the towers and the moon shone so bright.

Even though I cannot speak Spanish like they do south of Mexico City I could follow the beautiful story of Oaxaca that she sang about http://www.susanaharp.com/2010/ . It was a real treat.

I did have a hard time with all the street sellers. On the buses, at the square, on the street, in the bano. There seems to be no where they will not walk up to you and it is hard to get them to leave. Even if you aren’t interested. They exploit children too and this made me very sad.

Oaxaca is a cosmopolitan place. European influenced for sure.

I love Oaxaca and will be back for sure…




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