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Journey Through Latin America (Part 16)

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It was hot and sweaty in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, where I had to take one of these tricycle taxis from the bus station to the Mexican border.  It was much cheaper to walk across the bridge then to pay $4 to be tricycled across.  Guatemalan and Mexican immigration was smooth enough, although a slow and sweaty process.  From there I took a shuttle to Tapachula, where I had to wait a couple of hours for the bus to Arriaga.  It gave me time to relax and have some good Mexican tacos.  It seems to me that Mexican tortillas are the best.

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I enjoyed a night and a day in Arriaga, Mexico where I had stayed before, at the Hotel Chiapas, although they had raised their rates somewhat since I was here in October.  I had more great Mexican street tacos, then in the morning an incredible breakfast buffet for $4 that set me up through lunch.  I had to wait all day and into the night for my bus to leave for Oaxaca at 9PM.  It was nice to be in a real bus station rather than just a spot on the sidewalk.

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I slept on the bus all night and arrived in Oaxaca around 5AM, so the Hostel Paulina, where I had stayed in October, only charged me for the following night.  Breakfast was included, and the staff recognized me and requested a musical performance.  I gave them a Promo CD of Luis Sabor and the next morning they were playing it for the breakfast service.

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I really like Oaxaca, Mexico.  It is one of the few large state capital cities that still retain a relaxed atmosphere, despite being very busy and offering a great deal of opportunities for shopping and entertainment.  It is similar to Leon, Nicaragua in this regard.  I enjoyed visiting a large mercado, where I tried on a sombrero, since I had accidentally left my leather hat on a bus in Escuintla.

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I also tried a few of these “chapulines”: chili-fried crickets, at the insistence of my friend Porfirio, whom I had met back in October when I was busking in the Plaza.  Porfirio and I talked a great deal and he had an interesting story to tell.  Having grown up on the streets, he had just spent his first entire year dependence-free, after being addicted to heroin for six years.  It was inspiring to hear how he had pulled himself out of the gutter, literally, with the help of God, to escape the living hell he had endured.  He was incredibly optimistic, and I have felt compelled to pray for him, as his trials certainly cannot be over.

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After just two days in Oaxaca, I was ready to board another bus for a long trip to Puebla.  The bus stations were starting to resemble airports now, and the buses were more comfortable, including bathrooms and movies, although much more expensive than in other countries.

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Journey Through Latin America (Part 12)

 

 

 

 

After resting up in Liberia, Costa Rica for a few days, I was ready for the journey to Monteverde.   Offered every taxi driver on the plaza 500 colones, or one dollar, to take me to the bus terminal, but they all turned me down and I just heaved my backpack and guitar the six blocks and got on a bus to Cañas.

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From Cañas I took a short ride to Tilaran, where we waited an hour for the bus to Monteverde.  Seeing Tilaran I wished I had spent a couple of days there instead of Liberia, but it was too late to stop there as I was rapidly approaching my flight date of Dec 12 out of San Jose.  At the bus stop I ran into a nice Dutch lady named Lisel, whom I had met in Liberia, and who has been riding a bicycle all over Costa Rica.  What fun!  She was taking the bus to Monteverde, however, because the road is steep and rough.  The road is indeed rough, and my bladder seemed so full by the time we finally arrived in Santa Elena, the actual town near the Monteverde Reserve.  The road was so dusty that my backpack and guitar , which had been stored below, were covered with a thick layer of it.

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The scenery was quite beautiful and cool as we climbed up into the clouds.  In Santa Elena I stayed at a recommended hostel, Pension Santa Elena, which is quite reasonable and just a block from the bus stop, and is run by a brother/sister team from Austin, Texas with the surname of Smith.

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After talking to the beautiful receptionist about my journey, I set off for the bar Tres Monos that she recommended as a place I might perform my show as Luis Sabor.  After talking to the owner, we arranged for me to play that Saturday night at the Dikary Restaurant, which turned out to be alot of fun.

The day before the show was when I made the mandatory journey to the cloudforest.  Most of the other travellers I met were also taking zip line tours, night tours, bungee jumping and many other fun things, but my budget allowed me only the walk in the jungle.  I loved it.

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I first saw an agouti sniffing around the banana trees at the entrance, then I glimpsed a light-colored coyote and a raptor of some sort, and I heard what may have been a toucan.  Later on I heard and saw a troop of coatimundis, one of which was quite large, but I couldn´t get a good shot for a photo, and it was rather dark.  I started shooting with abandon and took a video as well, and suddenly my battery was dead.  A while later I saw some white-faced capuchin monkeys and miraculously my camera had just enough juice left for a photo.

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A friend of mine from Tucson, Susu,  whom I had not seen for 13 years lives in Monteverde with her Tico husband Marcos who is an excellent guide, and they graciously invited me to stay with them a couple of nights in their lovely new house with their lovely new daughter Eva, who is absolutely adorable.

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Susu´s parents have a large property and gorgeous home, complete with orchard and greenhouse, and there is a large section of the land that is easily as pleasant to walk through as the reserve.  The following photos should make it obvious why so many retirees move to Costa Rica.

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The last night in Monteverde we went to a choir performance directed by Susu´s father Hugh Gray and featured the Smith family, of Pension Santa Elena.  It really is a small, close-nit community, and I think within a few weeks I could have met most of the members.    I really enjoyed my visit there and hope to come back, but I have a plane to catch in San Jose, bound for Lima, Peru.

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Half a Dream Come True


 

For many years I had a dream of starting a chain of mini-bookstores throughout Latin America. I have spent a lot of long vacations traveling in Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Peru, and I always noticed that tourists like to leave behind their used books. I also noticed that buying books in these countries was very expensive, even by USA standards. One day I found a great little cafe from which I could escape the heat, perhaps in Valladolid, Mexico, where I noticed that the local youths seemed to gather. That is when I began to think how great it would be for a cafe like that to provide books for the people to buy cheaply, and sell back to them in order to purchase more. This, I thought, would provide an economic incentive for the restaurant owner, and also ensure the re-circulation of books throughout the community.

When I first joined Facebook, I thought this would be a perfect forum for discussing my ideas, and perhaps develop an organization for promoting literacy in the manner I had in mind. I started a Facebook Group called “Promoting Literacy in Latin America” and most of my friends joined up, and I also made new friends with similar interests. Strangely, however, I couldn’t get more than three people to post anything. I couldn’t get a discussion started. This was disappointing, but I still thought I would implement my plan at the first opportunity.

     

My next setback came when I actually started planning my next trip to  Mexico.  Thats when it dawned on me that tourists, and especially backpackers, don’t want any extra weight to carry—and books are very weighty.  While they may carry one or two paperbacks that they are reading, the amount of books necessary to fuel my plan would be too much.  I felt my dream dissapating, but I still had respect for it, as my personal belief is that dreams come from God, and are a clue to the future if nothing else.  So I kept several boxes of books available for my trip to Mexico.

Living in Tucson, I felt that the most logical town to implement my plan was Magdalena, Mexico, just an hour south of the border. So I drove to the center of Magdalena, parked on the plaza by the church, and walked around looking for candidates. Most of the cafes were small, smoky and serving beer—not the type of place to promote reading in youths. Then I found an ice-cream shop with plenty of room and I approached the lady at the counter with my idea, assisted by a typed and illustrated description I had prepared for that purpose. She liked the idea, but the owner of the shop was not due back for a while, and in the meantime she introduced me to the holistic medicine lady next door. From the herb shop I was directed to another cafe that apparently already was set up to sell books as I had described. Walking a few blocks away, I found Cafe Sed, where I was surprised to find a perfect example of what I had been dreaming of.

I spoke to the manager in charge, who was animated to discover my interest, and spent the next half hour describing the business structure of their operation. Cafe Sed is just one of several operations created to educate and support the youths of three orphanages in the area. You can read about them at these websites: http://www.cvemx.org,

http://tihmin.org

http://www.cafesed.blogspot.com

http://www.carnisimo.blogspot.com

 

Cafe Sed is a small operation compared to the meat processing business, part of which is located next door. I got a quick tour of how they process organic jerky, and it was quite impressive, the youths were at the meat-stick stuffing stage when I was there. These are all older teenagers getting excellent career knowledge and experience. The operation was spotless, and strictly following high food safety standards. Apparently the whole meat business was designed and developed by an American doctor of meat science, a volunteer and significant donor.

Well, I found a place to donate my books after all. I don’t know what part this experience will play in my future, but I felt that I was led to this organization for a reason. Guess we’ll just wait and see.


A Dreaming Recap

            I would just like to recap the major points I’ve been talking about regarding dreams and how to make them real.

1)     Dreams come from God.

 

2)     God is way too complicated for us to understand.

 

3)     Infinity is really big.  As a result, the possibilities are endless.

 

4)     There is a difference between fanciful dreaming and constructive dreaming.

 

5)     What you do today will affect the person you become tomorrow.

 

6)     The Universe will help you if you try.

 

7)     Badly planned pursuits of dreams may lead to uncomfortable situations.

 

8)     Often your dreams lead you to unexpected results, but personal growth will result from your failures.

 

9)     Well planned dreaming can result in great achievements.


Great Dreamers

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          Abraham dreamed of a new land, to be solely inhabited by his progeny.  I personally don’t believe he heard the voice of God with his ears, but with his mind.  Genghis Khan called himself “the scourge of God,” and perhaps he was.  Perhaps Julius Caesar was.  Alfred dreamed of a United Britannia.  Ferdinand and Isabella a United Spain.  Columbus dreamt of a quicker passage to the Indies (sometimes we dream of one thing and achieve another.)  Benjamin Franklin dreamed up the postal system, among other things.  Isaac Newton dreamed of answers, as did Einstein.  Chĕ Guevara dreamt of giving power to the people, and probably died believing that he had.  Gandhi dreamt of peace, as did John Lennon.  Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream.

          Please note:  I could be wrong—it could have been the wives, lovers, sisters or mothers who had the dreams, and influenced these men to achieve them.  Or it could have been completely other people who had the dreams, and they just campaigned for these men to advance their dreams.  History has to give credit to some one individual, when almost always the great accomplishments were achieved by a community.  Where, though, do the dreams come from?  Someone has to be thinking, receiving the flashes of inspiration and bringing the dreams to fruition.  Perhaps God or the collective consciousness emanates these ideas into the ether at appropriate moments in time, for the appropriate individual to “come up with it.”


A Dream Gone Awry

            I’ve been hesitant to write about this incident because it is somewhat incriminating.  It is however, another good example of how not to achieve your dream.

It was January of 1983 and I had been dreaming of a tropical paradise.  I hate winter, even in Texas, so I’ve often come up with hare-brained schemes of how to escape it.  This was one of those dreams I didn’t plan so well, during a period of my life when I was prone to do really stupid things.  I wanted to go to a Caribbean island and live on the beach, and the closest islands appeared to be the Bahamas.  I had a vague idea that I could maybe get a job on a cruise ship in Miami, then hop off wherever I wanted.  I had just discovered the virtues of hitchhiking and thought I could get to Miami that way.  I think I had about $200.

            The trip out was easy and fun because my friend James decided to be my first “ride”, all the way to Miami.  We had some caffeine pills and some joints that we measured out to the milepost to make it there.  We took turns driving and sleeping, and made the trip from Victoria, Texas (near Houston) to Miami and beyond in one shot.  We wanted to check out Key West and drove that long series of ocean bridges for hours.  Finally we gave up and turned around, staying the night in Key Largo, where we did some snorkeling the next day.  It was pretty nice and we even saw some barracuda.  Then we headed north to Fort Lauderdale, hung out at the beach awhile, then I was shocked to discover that James wasn’t going to take me back to Miami, so I was left to hitch it from there.  I got a good ride or two, but I can’t remember exactly how I ended up on the beach.  It was a warm night and the beach was deserted, so I rolled out my sleeping bag under a lifeguard stand and slept pretty well.

            The next morning I enjoyed walking the streets of Miami Beach:  colorful buildings, palm trees, and lots of old folk doddering around.  It was a little tiring walking the bridge to the mainland, and no one gave me a ride, but I could see where the cruise ships were docked and headed in that direction.  I was finally standing dockside and looking up at these huge white behemoths when it hit my addled brain— this isn’t the place you get hired to work on a cruise ship.  There wasn’t an office building in sight.  I probably should have contacted the corporate office weeks before and applied somewhere else, perhaps even Houston.  That part of the dream went up in smoke.

            I can’t remember how I found Chalk’s Airline, maybe I asked a passerby or looked them up in the Yellow Pages (I was really fuzzy brained at the time.)  They had regular flights to Nassau for around $50 I think, it was just a two-engine prop plane carrying  a dozen passengers.  It was a sea plane and fun taking off and landing with the pontoons.  Considering my poorly made plans, I was somewhat astonished to have actually made it to the Bahamas—Paradise Island.  Customs was right there where we landed and we all filed into the little government building and faced the dark-skinned officials with the wonderful Bahamian accents.  I looked like crap—skinny, long-haired, unshaven, red-eyed, carrying a duffel bag.  “How much money do you hahve?” was the first question, which threw me for a loop.  “$120? At what ahddress will you be staying?” !!!! I definitely hadn’t thought this out.  “We don’t sleep on the beaches here, it is too dangerous.”  I was confused now, I assumed I could just stay until my money ran out and then, well….I really hadn’t planned very well.  “We will lahnd you for one day, a car will take you to lodgings you can afford and pick you up theah tomorrow and bring you bahck heah.  You must leave heah tomorrow.” 

            Well, it turned out to be a pretty nice house, though all I did was spend the evening on the second-floor veranda with three black guys—two locals and a visiting Bahamian-American.  “We don’t pass joints here, everyone smokes their own.”  So I had to buy a small bag of powerful, gummy ganja and got blown away as we chatted about cross-cultural stuff (I guess.)  At one point a beautiful Bahamian-American girl stopped by and said she would see me later, and I actually half-believed her.  The next day I just had enough time to wander down to a small restaurant for a delicious conch lunch.  I took a few photos of the neighborhood and was intrigued at how the workmen would stand around listening to a jambox while watching one guy do all the digging.  Years later I learned that this is the way road construction diggers work everywhere if they have to do it by hand.  The big government car showed up as promised and I was politely kicked out of paradise.

            Of course the night I had to spend in Miami had to be when one of those freak cold fronts reached Southern Florida.  I couldn’t get a ride after dark, so I ended up at a toll booth in the middle of nowhere.  Thank God they had a clean bathroom where I could nap for an hour, then stand out by the side of the road for an hour—spent the whole night like that and felt lucky not to have been hassled by anyone.  At dawn I finally got picked up, and the driver was so kind I decided he must be an angel. 

            Perhaps angels are beings from another dimension that inhabit or influence the actions of a willing human host.  That’s how I felt about Daniel.  I was extremely grateful for the ride to Cocoa Beach after such a long, cold night, but Daniel extended his charity far beyond anything I could hope for.  He said he was like me a long time ago, when a man picked him up and gave him a job.  I think he was a drug dealer actually, but he wasn’t trying to hire me or sell me anything.  What he did was take me to the bus station, then bought me a ticket to Houston for $200.  Nice guy.  Or maybe you would call him a “good fellah,” but I thought he was an angel.  I slept the entire trip back, stepping off to use the restroom and get a bite to eat.  Somewhere along the way I found the $80 that I thought had been stolen from me back at Nassau.  I probably had hidden it when I was really stoned, then forgot where I had hidden it.

            When I got home I had a lot to think about, regarding close calls, guardian angels, and my own foolishness.

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Where do Dreams come from?

            So if you’ve been following my last few posts, you should have a good idea of what I mean when I say that dreams come from God.  I like to think that before we are born, when we are experiencing Pure Consciousness with the One, we can see our entire life mapped out in front of us.  Maybe we design our lives to achieve a specific goal.  All the trials and tribulations (what is a tribulation, anyway?) are a part of a master plan to get us to certain places, meeting people we have to meet, learning things we need to know.  With this scenario, dreams are like prompts from a GPS—if you ignore them it will take you much longer to arrive at your destination. Or you could get lost.  This is just a cock-eyed idea of mine—ridiculous, right?  Still, I enjoy contemplating this, rather than the thought that it is all meaningless.

            My point is this:  if it is all meaningless, and we are just evolved animals wandering around, where do these dreams come from?  Why would we develop these ideas which reward us so handsomely if pursued?  Well, sometimes the reward is a painful lesson learned, but I still cherish every adventure I’ve embarked upon.  Doubtless, any psychoanalyst could give a perfectly rational explanation for the phenomenon.  Rational is good.  I think we should all live rationally on a day-by-day, instant-specific basis.  But that kind of living might just get you nowhere, and maybe give you a dose of depression.  Sometimes you have to contemplate your life as a whole, and find something fun to do with it.  This is where dreams come to the rescue.  They say, “ Now here’s an idea for you!”       I say go for it.

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More on God…

            You might assume from my previous post that I’m not a Christian, but I am.  I’m also a Buddhist.  I just don’t happen to believe that any individual could be God, and everything else Not-God.  God, by creating the Universe (or Multiverse) is everything.  Nothing and no one is separate from God.  You and I are part of God.  And if we humans are the image of God, it is because we are conscious.  Perhaps we are, collectively, the consciousness of God on this physical plane. 

            You might be surprised to learn that nothing in Matthew, Mark, or Luke would contradict my point of view.  It is the Gospel of John, alone of the four, that postulates the exclusive divinity of Jesus.  Recently, I read about the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, a first century text that was outlawed by the early church leaders and was recently re-discovered in Egypt, along with several other Gnostic texts.  The scholar who wrote the book I read actually considers the possibility that Thomas (“Doubting Thomas”) may have been defamed in the Gospel of John for being contradictory.  It appears that many of the Gnostic texts espouse the belief that Jesus was teaching his followers how to attain divinity, to be equal to him, a Son of God.  Curiously, this is just what the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart, a great spiritual authority of the Middle Ages, was preaching.  Meister Eckhart sermonized on the importance of detachment in order to be part of the One.  This is just what Buddhism is all about.  No, Buddha wasn’t a God, in fact Buddhists believe there have been many Buddhas, including Jesus.  Buddha is just a term that means “enlightened one.”

            Do I believe in Jesus?  Of course, no one else has impacted the course of human history as he has.  He was the Messiah of whom the prophets foretold.  What’s more, his Spirit has been a force of good on our planet for millennia.  And it is the Spirit that matters (pun?)  For if you really become detached, and contemplate “reality,” it is obvious that everything is an illusion, or a delusion of our minds.  There is nothing solid—quantum physics has proven that.  So we are Spirits.  And we are One, just pretending to be separate.  Perhaps God is just having a bit of fun.  Oh, and I don’t buy into the whole “battle between good and evil” scenario. 

            May the Spirit of Jesus the Christ live within you, and may all beings attain enlightenment.  Amen


God is….

Dear God, God bless you, OMG, gosh darn it—the word is ubiquitous, and yet people rarely speak of the subject itself anymore, mostly because one is so easily misunderstood.  Touchy subject, lots of beliefs and interpretations.  They say that religion is on the decline, maybe so, but I don’t think that necessarily means that people are atheists, or even agnostics.  It’s just that everyone has a different view of who or what God is, and don’t feel comfortable having someone tell them they will be eternally damned for disagreeing with them.  One doesn’t choose what to believe, honestly, one believes what one believes.  If you can find a religion that conforms completely with your personal beliefs, well, you are blessed.  Also, there is that phenomenon known as blind faith.

            Lately I’ve heard the term “personal God” used, as in “…don’t believe in a…”  I think I know what they mean, but that term doesn’t work for me.  I would rather say I don’t believe in an anthropomorphic God.  That is to say that, to me, God is so much bigger and more complicated than a human that it is extremely vain to assume God could be encapsulated in our form.  I could say that God is the Universe—that’s pretty big.  Lately, however, I’ve heard that quantum physicists are considering the possibility that there are more than one—a Multiverse if you will.

            I enjoy contemplating Infinity, something rather difficult for our little human minds to comprehend.  If you look at our galaxy, there are more stars than we could possibly count.  Then, if you look at the Universe, there are countless galaxies!  Looking inward is just as daunting.  No matter how small a particle the physicists find, there appears to be something smaller, and with more empty space in between.  Infinity means there is no end—to anything.  Consider this:  it is mathematically possible for anything we can imagine to exist, somewhere out there in Infinity.  Then, if you consider the possibility of other dimensions, ones that may not conform to our “laws” of physics, well, there is an infinite number of possibilities.  This is God’s realm of existence.

 

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