Saturday, October 27, 2007

I Want To... Quiero...

An awesome song by the Guatemalan singer-songwriter Ricardo Arjona. He masterfully expresses what many of us feel: to want... to dream... to want to live our own life..."I want to live without a script." I am so proud Guatemala has given the world a poet of life and love such as Arjona...



I want to… by Ricardo Arjona

I want to make the biggest mistake in the world
and navigate in a kayak from Miami to Havana
I want to have a coffee watching the Mediterranean
and wake up in Tulum chasing a star.
I want to tell Jesus that if he is there to come back,
and get my electricity cut off so I can light a candle… and to dream.

I want to give a flower to the one I love who hurt me
I want to start all over and to change my name.
I want to stone the hallways of the lost causes
and see dad trying to convince my mother.
I want to hear you say what your eyes scream
I want to lose the courage I gained being afraid.

Chorus
I want to run around while I climb on a comet
and lift the skirt of the chubby girl in the barrio
I want to live without a script nor the same recipe
I want to invent and to add a new letter to the alphabet
I want to forget you knowing it is good for me
I want and I can't want while I still want
It is useless to believe wanting is to forget you
I want to find a new love and lose it immediately
to forget you for the rest of my life
I want to whistle let it be under the moonlight
I want to wash away in the sea everything that is not future

Chorus
I want to run around while I climb a comet
and lift the skirt of the chubby girl in the barrio
I want to live without a script nor the same recipe
I want to invent and add a new letter to the alphabet
I want to forget youKnowing it is good for me
I want to play alchemyand search for an answer in Tibet
I want to escape from myself
so I am not from here
or from anywhere
I want to get lost in anthropology
Dedicate my life to philanthropy
So I can forget you, so I can erase you

Chorus
I want to run around while I climb a comet
and lift the skirt of the chubby girl in the barrio
I want to stand in Irak and send a greeting
to the mom of the biggest idiot in the world
I want to forget youKnowing it is good for me
I want to give a flower to the one I love who hurt me

ESPANYOL

Una cancion impresionante del canta-autor Guatemalteco Ricardo Arjona. En ella Arjona magistralmente expresa lo que muchos sentimos...querer... soniar... vivir a nuestra manera... "Quiero vivir sin guion ni la misma receta" Me llena de orgullo saber que Guatemala ha dado al mundo un poeta de la vida y del amor como Arjona...

Quiero por Ricardo Arjona

Quiero cometer el error más grande del mundo
y navegar en kayak de Miami a la Habana.
Quiero tomarme un café viendo al Mediterráneo
y despertar en Tulum persiguiendo una estrella.
Quiero decirle a Jesús que si está, que aparezca,
y que me corten la luz pa' prender una vela… y soñar.
Quiero regalarle una flor al amor de mi herida;
quiero empezar otra vez y cambiarme hasta el nombre.
Quiero apedrear el zaguán de las causas perdidas
y ver salir a papá convenciendo a mi madre.
Quiero escucharte decir lo que gritan tus ojos;
quiero perder el valor que gané por miedoso.

Coro
Y quiero correr por ahí mientras trepo un cometa
y levantarle la falda a la gorda del barrio.
Quiero vivir sin guión ni la misma receta.
Quiero inventarle otra letra al abecedario,
quiero olvidarme de ti,quiero saber que es por mí.
Que quiero y no puedo querer mientras siga queriendo;
inútil creer que querer es lograr olvidarte.
Quiero encontrar otro amor y perderlo enseguida
para olvidarme de ti para toda la vida.
Quiero silbar let it be a la luz de la luna.
Quiero lavar en el mar lo que no sea futuro.

Coro
Y quiero correr por ahí mientras trepo un cometa
y levantarle la falda a la gorda del barrio.
Quiero vivir sin guión ni la misma receta.
Quiero inventarle otra letra al abecedario.
Quiero olvidarme de ti,quiero saber que es por mí.
Quiero jugar a la alquimiay buscar en el Tíbet alguna respuesta;
quiero fugarme de mí para no ser de aquí ni de ninguna parte,
perderme en la antropología,dedicar mi vida a la filantropía
con tal de olvidarte, con tal de borrarte.

Coro
Y quiero correr por ahí mientras trepo un cometa
y levantarle la falda a la gorda del barrio.
Quiero pararme en Irak y mandarle un saludo
a la mamá del idiota más grande del mundo.
Quiero olvidarme de ti,quiero saber que es por mí.
Quiero regalarle una flor al amor de mi herida.

A Different World. Un Mundo Diferente.


a few obsevations since i've been in cairo...

one of the very first conversations i had with an egyptian colleague went like this: So, do you have a boyfriend...? Nope, never had one...What? But do you go out, like on dates...Nope, the only reason I would go out with someone is if there is a possibility we would get married, then we would go out in a group... the concept of "dating" is not part of the muslim world... "courtship" is... how do you get to know someone like that? i am not sure but i guess it works because the divorce rate in egyp is very low compared to the western world... or do they stay together because they "have to"? by the way, my colleague is 26 years old and she does not wear the traditional headscarf many egyptian women wear when they become teenagers... she is "americanized" because she went to an american school and studied at the american university in cairo... she does not even have an accent...

in 6 weeks i have seen 4, maybe 5, couples holding hands... there is no physical contact between women and men on the streets... women wear very consertive outfits... no swimsuits at all... younger women wear jeans or long skirts with long tops and headscarfs... they also cover their arms with"sleeves" that you can buy separately in differently colors... think of them as socks for the arms... not many wear veils... the ones who do more than likely would cover their feet and hands as well...now consider this: cairo is h o t... we are in the middle of the desert... i would say 90 percent do not show their hair... two main reasons: their husband is the only one who should see their beauty and they do not want to distract men on the streets...

just this week i was a the mall around 3 in the afternoon... i tried to go into a store and i saw a sign: closed for prayer... inside i saw three men praying... most of the stores closed within 5 minutes... a mall with perhaps 100 stores (5 stories) suddenly became a place of prayer... i am not saying everyone was praying, but many did... i have only seen men praying in public, outside mosques, inside stores, etc... as i walked by a building one night i notice the security guard praying behind his desk in the lobby... nobody was there but him on his knees on his prayer carpet... i have also seen many men reading the Koran as they ride the metro... a friend of mine made the comment: what would people think of you if you were reading the Bible in the subway in New York...?

there are two liquor stores in maadi... maadi is a really big area incairo... i'd say a million people... not even in supermarkets you find beer... i was just thinking of the liquor section in the supermarkets in the US or Latin America, one of them would probably have 10 times the amount of bottles i saw at these two stores in maadi... drinking is not part of the muslim culture... last week a friend of mine took his wife to the airport at 3 in the morning and traffic was unbelievable... he told me how "weird" it was to see thousands of men, very few women, out on the streets hanging out, laughing, chatting and nobody drinking... i've been to a salsa club a couple of times... it was very interesting to see about 100 people there "just" to dance... there is no alcohol served there... i was told it is like that even when is not ramadan...

this desire for "purity" in the muslim culture... is it too conservative...? i dont know... but people seem to be happy even if they don't enjoy the "freedoms" the western world offers... i cannot see their hearts and i would not make a judgement of how many follow these "rules" out of tradition or out of genuine desire to be "pure" for God...

what does it mean to be pure to you?

IMPORTANT 
i want to make something very clear: i am n o tadvocating women play a lesser role in society than men at all... i believe in equality... in egypt you see women in leadership positions in both the private and public sectors...


ESPANYOL

algunas observaciones desde que llegue a cairo...

una de las primeras conversaciones que tuve con una companiera egipcia fue algo asi: Contame, tenes novio...? No, nunca he tenido...Que? Pero sales, digo, en citas...Nop, la unica razon por la que saldria con alguien es si existeria la posibilidad de casarnos y entonces saldriamos en grupo... el concepto de "salir" no es parte de la cultura musulmana..."cortejar" si lo es... como llegas a conocer a alguien asi? la verdad no se, pero parece que funciona... no se los datos del porcentaje de divorcios en egipto pero me imagino que es mucho mas bajo que en el mundo occidental.... o siguen juntos porque "tienen" que hacerlo? a proposito, mi companiera tiene 26 anios y no usa la panioleta que la mayoria de las mujeres egipcias usan al iniciar la adolescencia... ella es "americanizada" porque estudio en un colegio americano y se graduo en la universidad americana en cairo... ni siquiera tiene acento cuando habla ingles...

en 6 semanas he visto 4, talvez 5, parejas tomados de la mano... no hay contacto fisico entre hombres y mujeres en las calles... la ropa es muy conservadora... trajes de banio para nada... las jovenes usan jeans o faldas largas con blusas largas y panioletas...tambien se cubren los brazos con "mangas" que se pueden comprar por separado en diferentes colores... imaginalos como medias para los brazos... no muchas usan velo, pero las que lo usan usualmente se cubren los pies y las manos tambien... algo a considerar: cairo es c a l u r o s o... estamos en medio del desierto... yo calculo que 90 por ciento de las mujeres ocultan su cabello... dos razones principales: solo su esposo debe ver su belleza y para no distraer a los hombres en las calles...

esta semana estaba en el mall a eso de las 3 de la tarde... quise entrar a una tienda pero vi un aviso: cerrado por oracion... adentro vi a tres hombres orando... la mayoria de las tiendas cerraron en los siguientes 5 minutos... un mall con unas 100 tiendas (5 pisos) se convirtio de repente en un lugar de oracion... no digo que todo el mundo se puso a orar, pero muchos lo hicieron... solo he visto hombres orando en publico, afuera de las mezquitas, en las tiendas, etc...un dia al caminar vi a un guardia de seguridad en un edificio orando atras de su escritorio en un edificio.. no habia nadie, solo el de rodillas en su alfombra de oracion... tambien he observado muchos hombres leyendo el Koran en el metro... una amiga hacia el comentario: que pensaria la gente de ti si te vieran leyendo la Biblia en el metro en Nueva York..?

hay dos licorerias en maadi... maadi es un area extensa de cairo... yo calculo un millon de personas... ni siquiera en los supermercados encuentras cerveza... pensaba en la seccion de licores en estados unidos o latinoamerica, en solo una de ellas se encuentra probablemente 10 veces la cantidad de licores que vi en esas dos licorerias en maadi... beber no es parte la cultura musulmana.. la semana pasada un amigo llevo a su esposa al aeropuertoa las 3 de la maniana y el trafico estaba terrible... me decia que le parecio "raro" ver miles de hombres, muy pocas mujeres, en las callesa esa hora conversando, riendo, pasando el rato y nadie tomando... yo he ido a un club de salsa un par de veces... fue muy interesante ver a unas 100 personas ahi "solo" para bailar... no sirven alcohol... me dijeron que es asi aun cuando no es ramadan...

este deseo de pureza en esta cultura... sera muy conservadora? no se... pero la gente parece ser feliz aunque no disfrutan muchas de las "libertades" que ofrece el mundo occidental... yo no puedo ver los corazones de las personas y nunca sabre quienes siguen estas "reglas" por tradicion o por un deseo genuino de ser "puros" para Dios...

que significa ser puro para ti ?

IMPORTANTE
quiero dejar algo bien claro: yo n o estoy a favor deque el rol de la mujer en la sociedad sea menor en ningun sentido comparado al hombre... yo creo firmemente en la igualdad... en egiptose ven mujeres en posiciones de liderazgo tanto en el sector privado como publico...



Why We Travel. Porque Viajamos.

Why We Travel?

The sound of the call to prayer fills the night in Cairo as I write these words.  It is a melancholic voice. I can only guess what the Muslin man is saying. Praises to Allah. Everywhere in Cairo you hear the melancholic chant 5 times a day. It can be heard in the middle of the night, when the sun rises, and when the sunset arrives. 
There is beauty in not knowing what the man is chanting from the mosque.
I have no idea what my life will be like in this city in the next two years. But there is a certain beauty in uncertainty. This attraction to the "unknown" is one of the reasons why explorers, travelers, nomads, and adventurers have been lured to venture to new places throughout history. I believe every human being has deep within a profound desire to learn, to explore.
Life in Cairo is exotic, to say the least. Not knowing Arabic has been a challenge and an adventure. Just getting a cab driver to take me where I want to go is always fun and a feeling of accomplishment once I get there. I thought I had seen crazy-neck-breaking driving on the streets of Latin America, but I was wrong. A colleague of mine literally screams all the way to wherever we go in the taxi. Near collisions, taxi-drivers asking for directions or chat-shouting while driving or going the wrong way are the norm. It really is c r a z y. Lonely Planet calls crossing the streets in Cairo "playing chicken." They are right.


I am taking Arabic classes twice a week. It feels great to be able to say a phrase or two to Egyptian colleagues or people on the streets. Egyptians are extremely friendly. They're always eager to help any way they can. On Saturday I went with a friend to the post office. As I wrote the address on an envelope a cute 6 year old girl observed me and said a few words to me. All I could say in Arabic was: what's your name? she replied: Nada. Nothing in Spanish. How poetic is that?! She smiled to me and then ran to her mother. Her mother smiled looking at me as she hugged her child. Then as I waited in line I noticed a guy cutting, I mentioned it to my friend. She explained that there was a line for men and a line for women, and it was his turn. Oops, at that moment I realized I was in the line for women with my friend. I took the metro downtown by myself two weeks ago. I felt great when I made it back home safely. There is virtually no crime in Cairo. I live in the "expat" neighborhood, and most storekeepers speak a bit of English, but I hope soon I'll be able to go anywhere and communicate with more Egyptians. 
There is a cool group of teachers at school. We go out and explore the city every weekend. We chill sharing stories and hanging out on the weekends. My rowdy Egyptian students have improved their behavior since we begun classes. Last week was the beginning of Ramadan. Every one of my grade 5 students fasted. I am both impressed and inspired by their commitment to their traditions. During Ramadan they eat only before sunrise or after sunset. They are allowed to drink water due to their age, but adults do not drink nor eat. 
Life in Cairo so far has been the adventure I knew it would be, but the melancholic call to prayer reminds me that there is much I still don't know. 

We travel because in our soul there's a need to learn and explore.  
The journey continues.


ESPANYOL
Porque Viajamos?

El llamado a la oracion llena la noche en Cairo mientras escribo estas lineas. Es una voz melancolica. Solo puedo imaginar lo que dice el hombre arabe.Alabanzas a Alah. En todas partes en Cairo se escucha este canto melancolico 5 veces al dia. A media noche, cuando sale el sol, cuando llega el atardecer.

Hay belleza en no saber lo que canta el hombre de la mezquita.

No tengo idea como será mi vida en esta ciudad en los próximos dos años. Pero hay algo bello en la incertidumbre. Esta atracción a "lo desconocido" es una de las razones por las que exploradores, viajeros, nomadas, y aventureros fueron en búsqueda de nuevos lugares atraves de la historia. Yo creo que dentro de cada ser humano hay un profundo deseo de explorar, de aprender.

La vida en Cairo es definitivamente diferente . No saber Arabe es una aventura y un reto. Lograr que un taxista me lleve a donde quiero ir es divertido y un sentimiento de mision cumplida al llegar. Yo pense que habia visto manejar como locos en Latinoamerica, pero eso no es nada comparado a Cairo. Una compañera del colegio literalmente grita todo el camino en el taxi cuando salimos. Muchas veces estamos a punto de chocar, vemos taxistas gritando a otros preguntando direcciones o charlando mientras manejan o van en contra de la via, para ellos no hay problema. Es de l o c o s! La guia de viajes Lonely Planet denomina cruzar las calles en Cairo "jugando al pollo" Excelente descripcion.



Estoy tomando clases de Arabe dos veces por semana. Me siento super cuando puedo decir alguna frase a mis companieros de trabajo. Los Egipcios son muy amigable y siempre tratan de ayudar en lo que pueden. El sabado fui al correo con una companiera Egipcia. Mientras escribia la direccion en el sobre una niña preciosa de unos 6 años me observaba y me dijo unas palabras. Lo unico que pude decirle en Arabe fue como te llamas? Nada, me respondio. Que poetica conversacion, no? Mientras esperaba en la fila note que un señor se colaba, se lo mencione a mi amiga y ella me explico que habia una fila para hombres y una para mujeres, asi que que era su turno. Ups, entonces me di cuenta que yo estaba en la fila de mujeres con mi amiga. Un dia tome el metro hacia el centro yo solito. Me senti feliz cuando regrese a la casa sin incidentes. En Cairo prácticamente no hay crimen. Estoy viviendo en el barrio de los extranjeros, asi que en las tiendas hablan un poco de Ingles, pero espero que en unos meses pueda comunicarme con mas gente Egipcia.

En el colegio hay un grupo de maestros buena honda. Salimos y exploramos la ciudad cada fin de semana. Nos relajamos compartiendo historias y salimos los fines de semana. Mis estudiantes estan mejorando en su conducta cada dia.  La semana pasada fue el inicio de Ramadan, t o d o s mis alumnos ayunaron. Estoy impresionado e inspirado por su esfuerzo por mantener sus tradiciones. En Ramadan solo comen antes del amanecer o despues del atardece pero pueden tomar agua por su edad, pero los adultos no toman ni comen.

La vida en Cairo hasta el momento es la aventura que pense que seria, pero la meloncolica llamada a la oracion me recuerda que hay mucho que aun no se. 

Viajamos porque en nuestras alma esta la necesidad de aprender y explorar.

El viaje continua.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Family. Nostalgia. Travels.



As the summer of 2007 comes to an end, I am feeling nostagic. I blame Octavio Paz. He was on a TV interview tonight. Brilliant man. As I listened to him talk about his life, books and poetry, I realized I have one week left in Guatemala. I felt nostalgic, not sad, but nostalgic. Here is one of my favorite poems by Paz.


Between what I see and I say,
between what I say and I keep silent,
between what I keep silent and I dream,
between what I dream and I forget,
poetry.


It slips
between yes and no,
it says what I keep silent,
it keeps silent what I say,
it dreams what I forget.
It is not speech: it is an act.
It is an act of speech.
Poetry
speaks and listens:
it is real.
And as soon as I say
it is real
it vanishes.
Is it then more real?


Tangible idea,
untangible word:
poetry
it comes and goes
between what is
and what is not.
It weaves
and unweaves
reflections.
Poetry
scattered eyes on a page,
scattered words on eyes.
Eyes speak,
words gaze,
gazes think.
To hear thoughts,
To see what we say,
To touch the body of an idea.
Our eyes close,
the words
open up.



I came back to Guatemala after teaching 2 years in Bolivia. This summer I travelled in Antigua, Monte Rico, Atitlan, and Tikal here in Guatemala. I also spent 2 delicious weeks in Cancun and Playa del Carmen in Mexico.

The most memorable moments of this summer are not my travels but the time I spent with my family. I had the blessing to organize my grandparents’ 72nd wedding anniversary. This celebration became a huge family reunion. My mom traveled from LA for the occasion. I adore my grandparents. They are so cute, funny and kind. My whole family has a great sense of humor, we laugh a lot when we hang out. One afternoon we watched home videos and I wiped a tear from my grandpa's cheek as he saw himself telling me the story of how he met grandma. At my grandparents 72nd wedding anniversary we had so much fun. Watching my grandparents dancing was beautiful. Watching them holding hands the whole evening was even more beautiful. I saw cousins, aunts and uncles I had not seen in years. 

Once again the road calls my name. I am moving to Cairo, Egypt. A new continent, a new city, a new home, a new job. I take in my backpack wonderful memories of this summer. I take the love of my family. I also take the faith in my heart that this new chapter in my life will be one more blessing in my life.


ESPANYOL

Al acercarse el fin del verano del 2007, me siento nostálgico. Octavio Paz tiene la culpa. Recién lo vi en una entrevista en la tele. Al escucharlo hablar sobre su vida, libros y poesia, me di cuenta que me queda una semana en Guatemala. Me sentí nostálgico, no triste, sino nostálgico. Aquí esta uno de mis poemas favoritos de Paz.

Entre lo que veo y digo.

Entre lo que veo y digo,
entre lo que digo y callo,
entre lo que callo y sueño,
entre lo que sueño y olvido,
la poesía.

Se desliza
entre el sí y el no:
dice lo que callo,
calla lo que digo,
sueña lo que olvido.
No es un decir:
es un hacer.
Es un hacer
que es un decir.
La poesía
dice y se oye:
es real.
Y apenas digo
es real,
se disipa.
¿Así es más real?

Idea palpable,
palabra impalpable:
la poesía
va y viene
entre lo que es
y lo que no es.
Teje reflejos
y los desteje.
La poesía
siembra ojos en la página,
siembra palabras en los ojos.
Los ojos hablan,
las palabras miran,
las miradas piensan.
Oír los pensamientos,
ver lo que decimos,
tocar el cuerpo de la idea.
Los ojos se cierran,
las palabras
se abren.


Llegue a Guatemala despues de dos anios dando clases en Bolivia. Este verano tuve la oportunidad de viajar en Antigua, Monte Rico, Atitlan, Tikal. Tambien pase 2 semanas deliciosas en Cancun y Playa del carmen en Mexico.

Los momentos memorables de este verano no son de mis viajes sino de mi familia. Tuve la bendición de organizar el aniversario de boda 72 de mis abuelitos. Esta celebración se convirtió en una gran reunión familiar. Mi mama viajo desde Los Angeles para la ocacion. Yo adoro a mis abuelitos. Ellos son tan simpaticos, alegres y buenos. Toda mi familia tiene un gran sentido del humor y nos reimos mucho cuando estamos juntos. Una tarde inolvidable miramos videos de la familia y limpie una lagrima de la mejilla de mi abuelo al verse el mismo contandome la historia de como conocio a mi abuela. Nos divertimos mucho en la fiesta del 72 aniversario de mis abuelos. Verlos bailar fue bello pero verlos tomados de la mano toda la noche fue aun mas bello. Vi tios y primos que no habia visto en años. 

Una vez mas el camino me llama. Me mudo a Cairo, Egipto. Llevo en mi mochila recuerdos maravillosos de este verano. Llevo conmigo el amor de mi familia. Tambien llevo la confianza en mi corazon de que este nuevo capitulo sera una bendicion mas en mi vida.


Life in Bolivia. Vida en Bolivia.

october 7, 2007

before i came to cairo i spent two years teaching in cochabamba, bolivia... these are some of the emails i sent to my friends during those two years...

august 15, 2005

i am settled in cochabamba... it's a great town... last sunday 15 teachers from my school and i went to urkupiña, 20 minutes away, to see a parade of indigenous dances for carnival... we had so much fun... i will be sending pics to you soon... today i am sending you something a wrote about my first two weeks in cbba... take care my friend...

Cochabamba Adventure…

I arrived in Cochabamba almost two weeks ago… and I a m s o g l a d I decided to come here… why I am glad I came to Cbba ? Here are the top five reasons…

5. the weather… clear crisp mornings and evenings… sunny warm days… 4. the school... friendly teachers… great students… beautiful campus with lots of grassy areas and beautiful views of the city and hills from my huge classroom windows… 3. the town... lots of plazas and tree lined boulevards not to mention the biggest outdoor market in Latin America where you can find any imaginable product for a great price… 2. the night life... bohemian cafes and lively restaurants and bars just a couple of blocks from my place… 1. the cost... the incredibly low prices allows you to be out almost every night… nothing like a delicious dinner at a nice place (drinks included) for 7 dollars !!!

I feel really lucky: I arrived on a Saturday. On Sunday I bought the newspaper to look for an apartment and on Tuesday I moved to a second floor "garzonier" (an apartment behind a family house) very conveniently located (close to school and city life) … lots of windows… nicely furnished… comfortable back yard and pool where I can have barbecues with my new friends and hang my hammock up… nice, helpful and friendly landlord… quiet neighborhood… a couple of teachers who arrived a week it took them almost two weeks to find a place...

I have been out basically every night since I got here… the highlight of the week was the Kjarkas concert… a parent gave ten tickets to the school counselor and he invited all the new teachers… Kcarkas band was so cool… they play traditional Bolivian music with passion … lots of fun… every one ended up dancing around the tables…

So... this is my life in Cochabamba now… I go where the wind blows... I believe in my heart that it was my destiny to come here… I can't wait to see what the next two years will be like…

november 12, 2005

time, life and happiness...

last night i celebrated my 38th birthday with a few friends... we had a great time... we drank and we listened to music and to each other's stories for a few hours... laughter filled my place as punch lines were delivered... i like the diversity of my group of friends... canadians, americans, europeans... the ages range from early 20's to early 50's... jessika and i were talking and she asked me: what makes you happy mario...? i replied "to be free to do what i want..." then i added that "my happiness comes from having achieved much more than could have been expected of me..." this morning as i write this i realize i forgot to tell her that i believe happiness is a choice... an attitude towards life... i strive to live each day and enjoy each moment... life is too beautiful and too short to dwell on the past or to worry about the future... two more years and i will be forty... today i embrace my decision to be happy...

december 5, 2005


the last couple of weeks have been lots of fun in cbba... i went to la paz and lake titikaka for thanksgiving... i made a couple of really cool new friends here in cocha... both the trip and making new friends have been so much fun... i have been in cocha for four months now... the people and the places have made these four months fun and unforgetable... in ten days i get one month off... i will continue to travel in Bolivia... in search of adventures and moments that hopefully will not only be fun but will make me a better person... happy travels for all of us !!!!!!!

december 15, 2005

words... palabras...

... in the summer of 95 i volunteered in a school for deaf children... i realized then how precious spoken words were... since then i try to use only encouraging words... to me words are like the air we breath... imagine a world without words... most of my life is lived in english because of my job... but spanish is my first language and i l o v e reading, writing, listening and speaking spanish... here is a poem by pablo neruda that describes my passion for spanish... the spanish version follows the english one...

january 15, 2006

old... new...

2005 is gone... december was a really good month for me... on the 3rd i organized *family day* with the 6th graders... it went really well... we had lots of fun and raised $150 for the graduation trip... i finished my first semester in bolivia on december 16th... on the 27th i left for the beach in arica to celebrate new years... manuel, paty, raquel, lyla and i partied, watched fireworks and got so drunk... it was so much fun... january 06 is going really well... i went mountain biking to coroico on the most dangerous road in the world... i hiked up to 5 200 meters in chalkataya... and i visited tiwanacu, ruins of an ancient south american civilization... today was the first day of classes... it was a really good day... i am looking forward to seeing my students graduate and hopefully traveling in venezuela, colombia and ecuador in the summer... yay !!!!!

february 15, 2006

last week it rained every day all day... this week so far has been sunny, humid and warm... it sprinkles here and there and it is not surprising for the sky to get all cloudy in 2 minutes and then clear again... in school my students have been doing poetry... they love it... i think there may be a few poets in training in my class... i love poetry and i have read to them many of my favorite poems, both in english and spanish... we have also been learning about greece... and believe it or not they also love it... we had skits yesterday... socrates, plato and aristotle where guests in a talk show... lots of fun and i recorded them on my digital cam... i can't wait to hear them laugh and giggle when they watch themselves on my laptop... the 80's party at sylvie's and selena's was so much fun... so many memories... i can't believe 80's music is considered classic now... am i getting old ? i began yoga-pilates on february 1st... the studio is really nice and only 3 block from my apartment... the instructors are nice... one really pushes you and the other inspires you... i love it... carnival is coming and i am going to oruro, and so is half of bolivia... hahahahaah... february was so much fun... the second two weeks were sunny and warm... i got to go to the traditional university students drinking place (twice): las planchas... the music, the ambience, the friends and the drinking were as bolivian as they could be... first it was lyla's birthday and then the comadres celebration... i also got to go to Oruro for carnaval... alice, aisling, natalie and i went to see one of the most famous carnaval parades in the world... they mentioned it in CCN en Español... we had so much fun watching the dances, playing with water and hanging out... i met a bunch of fun peace corps volunteers and got to dance with the San Simon university tinku dancers... February 2006 in Bolivia will be a month I will remember for the rest of my life... I am really happy and thankful to be here...

march 21, 2006

solo solitude...

... in spanish there is only one word to say that you are either lonely or alone... that word is solo and the noun is soledad... in english there are two terms: loneliness and solitude... i love solitude... solitude is my best friend... she helps me connect with myself... i definately enjoy solitude... arjona says in his song: Acompaniame a estar solo that he is unfaithful to her only with solitude... she is the only who will ever know who i am when nobody is around... she is the one that knows my innermost secrets and dreams... i am not a loner, though... i've always been friendly and have had many friends... i enjoy hanging out with a special someone or with a few of my good friends... partying, talking, laughing, eating, dancing, drinking, whatever... but there are days when i just want to be with me... on those days i watch tv, read a book, magazine or newspaper... i spend time rearranging my photo albums or my memories box, where i have cards, letters, newspaper clips, etc that i've collected since my HS graduation... spending time with my memories, the places and the people that have been part of my life, always makes me smile... i am thankful for the opportunities i've had to meet so many wonderful people and seen so many amazing places... this summer i will be traveling by myself through ecuador, colombia and venezuela... but i won't be alone, i will be with the best company i could have, i will be with me and my best friend solitude...

june 10, 2006

galapagos

10 days into my two-month backpacking trip in ecuador, colombia and venezuela... i just got off the boat after a 5 day cruise in the galapagos... i am in awe of the beauty and diversity of life in these islands... swimming next to 3 turtles, countless bright colored fish, playful sealions... walking next to iguanas of all shapes, sizes and colors, watching sealions feed their young or a moody huge male sealion greet us with roaring moans on a deserted beach... soaking up the sunsets on board, chatting with my fellow travelers, and to end it all seeing dolphins swimming along the boat as the sun was setting... all i can say is w o w... now i am chilling at the small port of ayoras... i just had a delicious shrimp ceviche and a couple of beers... life is good and i am thankful for every minute of it...

july 20, 2006

to live to tell

i am sittting at an outdoor cafe overlooking the santa marta bay in the caribbean coast of colombia... i have been traveling for 6 weeks now... I just finished reading the fist part of the memoirs of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. "Vivir para contarla" The closest translation to that is: To live to tell. I loved it. The power of storytelling at its highest. I bought it in Cali, the most chaotic downtown so far in the trip, from a guy on the street. Colombia has been all and more of what I expected. Gabo´s prose has brought each city and Colombian culture to life as I have explored Cali, Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena and now Santa Marta, an unexpected stop on my way to Tayrona beaches. In each place I´ve had the undeserved opportunity of having wonderful moments by myself and with Colombian friends and travelers I´ve met. A Colombian girl in Cartagena told me she was so sad when they killed Pablo Escobar, the head of the Cali cartel. It was not easy to understand her point of view, and I don´t think I ever will, but it gave me a glimpse of how culture and opinions are determined in our lives by what we live each day. I´ve seen many unique things in Colombia in the last 2 weeks. The first thing I noticed was that there is gambling everywhere. From fancy casinos to little desks on street corners where people bet. I am not sure what they bet on but there seems be at least a couple of places on every street in the commercial areas. I guess that´s why there are also lots of pawn shops. They are called: Compra Venta, Buy Sell. I am not passing judgement on Colombians, I am simply stating what I´ve observed. I´ve also seen hard-working people making a living selling cold water on the streets for a quarter. In Bogota and Medellin I loved the Botero paintings and sculptures in museums and on streets and parks. The disproportioned human figure is what he is famous for. The simplicity of the concept and the innocence of the faces in his paintings are remarkable. In Medelling the museum tour guide told me the story of Rosita, a prostitute who was his lover and who helped him selling his paintings to her clients when he first started. This reminded me of how Gabo non-challantly tells of his encounters with his "midnight girlfriends," as he calls them, in his memoirs. Sex is a big part of advertising, as in most places, but here is a bit more blatant. I was afraid to take my camera out to take a picture of a huge billboard in downtown Cali to prove it, but I will describe it for you: a ten meter wide, five meter tall billboard with the picture of the behind of a girl in tight jeans pulling the string of her thong. I am not sure what they were selling but I am sure they sell a lot of them. Cartagena has been my favorite city so far. History fills the city enhancing the beauty of the colonial arquitecture. Also, the charming mix of people of African, Spanish and Indigenous is evident in the stunning faces of women walking the streets. I met a girl in a coffee shop who told me that she works from 8 to 6 mon-fri in the coffee shop and 10 am to 11 pm sat-sun in a restaurant. I imagine many people have to work that much to make ends meet and I admire them with all my being. In Bogota I saw a mime for 2 hours and I laughed for most of them. I think he is representative of the humor of the people of Colombia. He was really funny. I´d say a mix of Chris Rock and Eddy Murphy, his poignant yet true observantions of man-woman relationships, social status, and daily life were brilliant. So, Ecuador gave me a new respect for nature, Colombia has given me a new respect for people. I am thankful for this opportunity to live and to tell you my thoughts my dear amigo and amiga... Be well...

september 30, 2006

quiet happiness...

after backpacking for two months through 3 countries this summer... after experiencing intensely beautiful moments exploring cities, small towns, beaches, rivers, mountains, waterfalls... after making new friends and creating unforgettable memories, i am back in bolivia... i´ve been back for 6 weeks now... and on this lazy sunday i was going through old love letters, pictures, cards, my travel journal, and i started thinking of the beauty of being happy without thrills and exciting moments... enjoying the happines that comes from getting a tasty meditarrean burger from tuesday... or chatting online with an old or new friend... or meeting an interesting and cute girl and go out on a date with her... hearing one of my students say ahhh, when they understand something i tried to explain the best i could... or watching the pride in their faces as they get 100 on a test, especially the one who never gets a 100... playing soccer with the boys during break and hear one of them yell... al arana, al arana, because they think i am good... getting an unexpected call from the girl who didn´t return my calls for weeks... watching CSI ... or being congratulated by my principal because a couple of parents mentioned to him that i was a good teacher and they were happy their child was in my class... reminiscing as i watch slide shows of my travels on my laptop... calling my mom in LA and listen to her laugh... getting a cheerful hug from one of the orphans when i arrive where i teach english twice a week... or waking up at 11 in the morning on a sunday... reading late at night about an expedition to the everest in which 16 people gave up their lives in search of a goal: reach the top of the world... going to the movies with my students... hearing good news from a friend whose life is at a turning point for the better... i love the adreline rush and excitement that come from vacations and travels, but i also love the beauty of daily life and the gift it brings: quiet happiness...

november 15, 2006

getting older... getting better...

i turned 39 last friday... about 20 friends came over to celebrate with me... they brought wine, cards, a cake and their laughter to share with everyone... sergio congratulated me with a speech in quechua, one of the bolivian indigenous languages... we had tequila shots, took pictures, sang happy birthday and then we had cake on plates made ouf of the cake's cardboard box... around 1 am we walked two blocks to mandarina, a club near my apartment and danced until 4 00... i had so much fun... i realized, one more time, that the people i meet where i go make the difference between being a nomad and being a happy nomad... i am getting older and i am getting better at living life... i am a happy nomad... thanks to everyone who made it to my party on friday and thanks to those who thought of me from far away... may happiness hug you every day...

p e a c e...

envejeciendo... mejorando...

el viernes cumpli 39 años... alrededor de 20 amigos vinieron a celebrarlo conmigo... trajeron vino, tarjetas, un pastel y su risa para compartir con todos... sergio me felicito con un discurso en quechua, uno de los idiomas indigenas de bolivia... tomamos tequila, tomamos fotos, cantamos feliz cumpleaños y luego comimos pastel en platos hechos con la caja de carton del pastel... a eso de la 1 am caminamos dos cuadras a mandarina, una discoteca cerca de mi casa y bailamos hasta las 4... me diverti mucho... me di cuenta, una vez mas, que la gente que conozco a donde voy hace la diferencia entre ser un nomada y ser un nomada feliz... estoy haciendome viejo y estoy haciendome mas feliz viviendo mi vida... soy un nomada feliz... gracias a todos los que llegaron a mi fiesta el viernes y gracias a los que desde lejos pensaron en mi... que la felicidad te abraze cada dia...

p a z...

november 30, 2006

hemos perdido... we have lost...

Poema 10

Hemos perdido aun este crepúsculo.
Nadie nos vio esta tarde con las manos unidas
mientras la noche azul caía sobre el mundo.
He visto desde mi ventana
la fiesta del poniente en los cerros lejanos.
A veces como una moneda
se encendía un pedazo de sol entre mis manos.
Yo te recordaba con el alma apretada
de esa tristeza que tú me conoces.
Entonces, dónde estabas?
Entre qué gentes?
Diciendo qué palabras?
Por qué se me vendrá todo el amor de golpe
cuando me siento triste, y te siento lejana?
Cayó el libro que siempre se toma en el crepúsculo,
y como un perro herido rodó a mis pies mi capa.
Siempre, siempre te alejas en las tardes
hacia donde el crepúsculo corre borrando estatuas.

Poem 10

We have lost even this twilight.
No one saw us this evening hand in hand
while the blue night dropped out of the world.
I have seen from my window
the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops.
Sometimes a piece of sunburned
like a coin between my hands.
I remembered you with my soul clenched
in the sadness of mine that you know.
Where were you then?
Who else was there?
Saying what?
Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly
when I am sad and feel you are far away?
The book fell that is always turned to at twilight
and my cape rolled like a hurt dog at my feet.
Always, always you recede through the evenings
towards where the twilight goes erasing statues.

Pablo Neruda

december 20, 2006

the journey

i love to travel for many reasons... one of them is that it opens my eyes and heart to the moments that i may miss in the daily routine at home... the last 5 days i have enjoyed those unexpected moments... just today i saw: an old lady giving a cup of cofee and a piece of cake to a young man with crutches who begs for money on the street... a political protest of the workers party and the anti-riot police protecting city hall... earlier i enjoyed watching children feeding pigeons in the main plaza... i also enjoyed listening to a blind old man playing tango with his acordeon while i had a delicious steak dinner and wrote letters to my mom and grandparents... i let my heart guide my hand and a few tears fell on my cheeks as i wrote... but they were tears of happiness and gratitude for being alive... all day i walked, i wandered... sometimes with map in hand i looked for a museum or building... at moments i walked aimlessly and i simply observed and listened... the weather was perfect... the sun shined on me... i took pictures of a pink house and a blue balcony with pots of red flowers... i saw how downtown began to slowly be empty as people went home... my hostel is in an old building with a balcony overlooking the pedestrian street... i was looking for an internet cafe when my heart was saddened by the sight of a mother and her three children rumaging the trash bins for something they could use or sell... what a contrast with the many manicured ladies who walked the streets earlier carrying lots of bags... i am thankful for having this chance to observe, learn and enjoy life... tomorrow i will visit the place where che guevara was born and raised... and at night i will be 10 hours on a bus to buenos aires... the journey is my destination...

december 26, 2006

... another reason i love to travel is the unexpected moments... right now i am in awe... never in my life would i have imagined that i would reach the edge of the world... i arrived in ushuaia this afternoon... right now i can see the my hostel´s cabins, painted brick-red and green with strait and the mountains behind it...500 years ago ferdinand magellan circled the world for the first time coming through here.. unbelievable ... then there are moments when you feel like the universe smiles at you... yesterday i found an airfare half the price i was quoted a few days earlier.. and yesterday i shared a quiet fun Christmas dinner with my friend, an argentinian girl i met in Costa Rica six years ago, and her sister, brother-in-law and adorable two-year old niece ... antonella... her expressions as she opened her presents and as she watched the fireworks from the balcony overlooking the city will be in my heart forever... the day before, we went to the playground and i took pictures of her in the swings, later with the excuse of teaching her to count, she gave me 10 little kisses on the cheek... in Salta last week i met a brazilian couple who in their 60´s still have the adventurous spirit i admire in people... they drove 20 hours in their convertible, 10 hours for two days from brazil... i had the pleasure to spend a day with them on a wine-tasting tour... on the way there they joked in portuguese and marcelo, the argentinian guide, and i laughed even when we didn´t undertand everything they said... in cordoba i sat on the steps of the cathedral at night and chatted with a girl who wants to go to costa rica from argentina by land... she asked me many questions... we laughed and talked until i walked her to the bus stop at one in the morning... in the next two weeks i will wander around the patagonia and the tierra del fuego... more unexpected moments to come...

may 2007 bring you and your family mucha vida my friend...

greetings from the edge of the world...

january 10, 2007

the journey ends, the journey begins...

sunday i go back to cochabamba, monday i go back to school... as this month-long journey begins to end, i am looking forward to sleeping in my bed, making my coffee in the morning, watching the early news on tv and getting to school to my kiddos...

i love to travel and i love to live...

each day is an adventure, in far away lands or in the daily routine of life... today i visited moreno glacier near calafate, argentina... it was simply amazing... here are some pics i took... salta, cafayate, cordoba, alta gracia, buenos aires, ushuaia, punta arenas, paine towers, puerto natales, calafate and moreno glacier are now an unforgettable memory for me... thanks for sharing it with me my friend... finally, i want to thank you for your comments on my words and pictures...

mario

may 8, 2007

the countdown

the countdown has begun for me to leave bolivia...one more month and i will be in guate... three more and i will be in cairo... i can't believe it !!! it seems like yesterday i was at a kjarkas (local folk band) concert having ron abuelo during my first weekend in cochabamba... i have truly fallen in love with this city in the last 2 years... i will miss all the people i met here... i take with me so many memories...sigh... so, in two weeks i am traveling to sucre, a colonial city of white houses and government buildings... simon bolivar along with local generals signed the declaration of independence of bolivia, peru and ecuador there... i wonder what he would have thought of having a country named after him... my last adventure in bolivia will be the first week of june when i travel to uyuni salt lake... the perfect end to my two years here, a surreal place in every sense of the word... as if you step inside a dali painting... so, what you´ve been up to? if you are in guate this summer let me know...p e a c e and thanks for reading my musings my friend...

mario
ps i was at a "los autenticos decadentes" concert last friday... they are s o m u c h f u n... check them out sometime http://www.losautenticosdecadentes.com/musica.htm