Latin America: Conquering challenges head on and loving life

Recently I had the opportunity to volunteer with a nonprofit rescue in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador at the grassroots level. It was a welcomed experience with many opportunities for collaboration, synergy, collective and unique problem-solving, personal growth, cultural experience, language exchange, and at times, stress. The latter is far more infrequent in comparison to its non-counterparts. I’ll provide an example of the above. 

I arrived in the Galapagos to a humid 31 degrees Celsius via LatAm and Avianca airlines. Both were a pleasure to fly with and were courteous and reasonably priced. I especially enjoyed the pillow and blanket with the free meal from LatAm. Avianca showed tremendous patience with my limited Spanish vocabulary while being able to laugh through the communication struggles. After departing the plane I found myself stuck in customs for about an hour. This was for two main reasons. The first was communication and the second was the 20 and 100 US dollars they demanded I pay to enter, which I didn’t have. The communication problem was answered after a short 15-minute wait when a very kind and fluent English-speaking coworker came to our relief. The second issue was a little more difficult. I had been misinformed, unintentionally, by the nonprofit on the waiving of the fee upon entry. It happens; this is a grassroots experience and we are all learning together. Turns out they were yet to be added to the exempt list so exempt I was not. And as I didn’t have the money requested for me, which was 20 dollars at first, we were at an impasse for a moment. I was informed there was an ATM around the corner where I could retrieve the money. So, after a quick trip around the corner, I returned with the 20 dollars. I paid the fee and was then informed there was now a 100-dollar fee associated with the entrance to the National Park. (all the islands are considered a national park so this is the entry fee to the park. The 20 dollars was the entry fee to the Galapagos, or at least that’s how I understood it). Back to the ATM I go, but this time it will not allow me to access my account; it’s been locked. I had tried to prevent this by informing my financial institution of my travel plans and dates, but alas it was unsuccessful. As I returned to the customs counter and expressed my conundrum no one really knew what to do. My phone didn’t have an Ecuadorian SIM card yet and the airport had no wifi. After discussing the situation the National Parks Employee on site came up with a reasonable solution. This is something not common in the United States which took me by surprise. His suggestion was he keeps my passport and takes it to the NP office in Puerto Ayora. When I get my banking situation resolved I can go to the NP office, pay the entrance fee, and reacquire my passport. Now that’s an equitable solution that considers the circumstances rather than being a rigid, black-and-white legislative approach. I accepted the offer feeling heard and appreciated. The US could take some pointers here. 

Now that I had cleared customs I was boarding a bus to head over to Santa Cruz Island. The actual airport is on a small island beside the main island. I take the short 15-minute ride to the channel where I depart the bus and board a boat to ferry me across. My only luggage is a 20-liter backpack so I was able to carry it with me. Everyone else with actual luggage had to load it on top of a boat. Once on the opposite side of the channel, I boarded a second bus that would take me to my destination, the market and final stop in Puerto Ayora. This is the meeting point for my host and contact with the rescue. The bus ride takes about an hour and is uneventful except for my first sighting of the legendary Galapagos Giant Tortoise. When the bus stops at the port in Puerto Ayora and the driver hops off I assume this is the last stop. So I depart the bus and start looking for my host. After about 5 minutes of searching, I notice the bus is leaving and others have reboarded. It turns out I got off at the second to last stop and the bus driver had simply gone to the bathroom. After getting directions to the market from a wonderful abuela, thanks to the help of a translation app, I was on my way to the market. Five blocks later I arrived at the market and noticed the bus station. It was denoted by a white dry-erase board with departure times for the bus. A small wooden plank situation on top of two milk crates; one on each end provided seating for waiting riders and a small tarp attached to what appeared to be branches offered a decent amount of shade. It is here I stood in astonishment, looking around and absorbing the sight of produce stands, street vendors, and patrons interacting with sellers, relatives, and strangers. It was a world away from what I was accustomed to and reminded me more of a large “farmers market” as it is called in the States. The fresh produce provided an aromatic melody of poetic beauty which held me captive in astonishment until I heard a voice calling, “HOLA”. I turn around and see a smiling beaming with the vibrant energy of living a good life. This is my contact Jamie and from here, I am taken to the place I will be staying, introduced to two other workaway travelers, and given a small tour. The rest of the day was filled with smiles and a sense of joy and accomplishment for navigating the challenges associated with international travel. 

Fast Forward a few weeks. I ventured into town to grab some ice cream in the evening after a rather long day of work. While at the ice cream parlor, I met a Swedish man named Adrian who I instantly clicked with. Oh, I had a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of coffee ice cream; I enjoy mixing them together. Over the next week, we would see each other frequently and develop a unique feeling of genuine appreciation for each other. We also departed the same day, unbeknownst to either of us, so we got to spend some time together at the airport before I waved a beaming smile and wished him well on his continued travels. It’s difficult to transcribe such intrinsic knowledge associated with knowing. Nothing I write can convey the expressiveness of the feeling we shared. On the same night, I went in for the ice cream I decided to stop by Jamie’s store and hang out. My internal guide suggested this as it would help me practice my Spanish and observe the different interactions with the customers. As I approached Jamie’s store she immediately greeted me with the same beaming smile she showed me on day one. She introduced me to a friend who was hanging out with her and we all started talking in Spanish and English; each teaching the other a little of our respective languages. Jamie’s mother also showed up to join in the fun. I had intended to stay for an hour. This however did not happen. I stayed for three hours laughing, learning, and loving. I felt included in a family I didn’t know and accepted for who I was. Even with my broken Spanish. They laughed as I mixed up words like mejor and mujer and I giggled and they tried to pronounce the letter V. We even created our first inside joke, Cheba. 😀 The fun was so intense Jamie was open almost an hour longer than she usually was and I missed the last bus back to the house. This meant I was walking, uphill the whole way, the three miles back to the house. There’s a bike path that runs the entire length that is lit and paved so it’s nothing unpleasant. I also had a good audiobook to keep me company (Mistakes were made but not by me: Carol Travis & Elliot Aronson). Jamie’s mother offered to take me, but I declined as the evening was nice and I desired to enjoy the sensation of walking. What a beautiful evening I had. Each day was a pleasant joy however; I found the most joy at Librería Legenda Bookery, Arts & Café 

This little off-the-path cafe was my sanctuary for quiet, peace, and philosophical contemplation. Ash, a world traveler, and philosopher himself, always welcomed a good conversation, could listen and consider with intent to understand, and provided a delightful musical selection of vinyl, including poetry. His wife, Faith, has a plethora of culinary knowledge and always shared her beautiful authentic personality freely. I spent many hours reading, discussing, and enjoying the company, environment, and peaceful energy these two beautiful beings of creation created. I found a delightful book (The monk who sold his Ferrari; Robin Sharma) which I read while listening to musical legends such as the talking heads, Beethoven, the band, Fleetwood mac, and the west side story to name a few. If you ever find yourself on Santa Cruz island in the Galapagos you should consider stopping at Librería Legenda Bookery, Arts & Café. You won’t regret saying hello to Ash or Faith.

“I wish you joy and happiness. But above all of this I wish you love” ~Dolly Parton~

Her Name Is

Hope came to me softly,  

Its touch floating on blue diamonds.

Warming my heart gently;   

Is this loves eternal Siren? 

Hope spoke of joys living,  

Shinning with a ray of evolution. 

Present in its giving;  

Am I looking at a revolution? 

Hope showed me a kindness, 

Never swaying from understanding?

Displaying effection; 

Could this be what she has been saying?

“The time is always right, to do what is right” ~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Uncivilized Methods

There’s an unspoken beauty hidden within the silence of the unexplored. It’s an off-trail navigational cipher. Which way will it lead? One direction finds excitement the other fear, but both will evolve you; many times they join as a cohesive path. It’s the freedom of unburdened thought and peace of harmonious unification which taunts conventional, civilized living and appeals to a greater source from within. So I walk without shackles into the thicket of unknown, curious as I go. 

“It can’t possibly be said too often that there is no one right way for people to live; that’s only the delusion of the most murderous and destructive culture that history has ever produced” ~Daniel Quinn, The Story of B

Why I do

I wander to satiate curiosities unquenchable thirst, never lacking for imaginative wonder. It’s a byproduct of conscious striving for evolution’s fulfillment. The trod becomes the reward, a myriad of experiences enlivening the vigor of winged beauty as aviation is discovered. Soon a peace internal becomes a companion and challenges excite creative solutions provided by neutral-positive thoughts. The forward, progressive fluidity presents a mosaic uplifting the Fibonacci sequence with brilliant radiance that trickles on loves perfection. It continuously fills a cup constantly being drank from. It’s why I do what I do. 

“Everything is neutral. Nothing is good or bad unless you label it so” ~Unknown

27, August 2021

I didn’t get the best night of sleep. My mind wouldn’t slow down. I felt like a race car with bicycle brakes. So I utilized the help of breathing exercises, eventually finding a resolve. Unfortunately I was left feeling slugish the remainder of the day. I did manage to grab a few hours of sleep before my day started with me leaving the house shortly after eight in the morning. Good thing I didn’t have to start pre dawn or I might not have made it. As I was driving down the driveway to leave I noticed the clearness held by the atmohpere. There were no clouds hanging low or high and the haze that has been on the horizon is nonexistent. This means I can see the volcano. It sure is a pretty site. A little unnerving as well, but it’s all part of living in the ring of fire. The chances of it doing the volcano thing are slim so I dno’t give it a large amount of attention with my thoughts. I do however spend some time observing it with my eyes. With one last glance it’s out the driveway and down the road. I’m taking my brother to his new employment. I do hope he enjoys it. 

The drive took about thirty five minutes and was beautiful the entire way. Up and down small hills, around bends that gave glimpsing views of glaciers and the bay, and through the shadows of a canopy threatening to dump its leaves. It is a remarkable drive and one I don’t mind making. Nature sure does help. After dropping my brother off I ran some errands, grabbed a chai, and came home to make a quick lunch. Nothing fancy, a turkey and cheese sandwich. I actually ate two. I then did some cleaning and headed off to go to work myself. It sure is pretty here. I had to make an unexpected stop as a cow moose and her calf decided to cross the road directly in front of me. It was super cool to be so close. They ended up stopping traffic in both lanes as speed wasn’t on their minds. From what I could tell most people didn’t mind. I could see the occupants of the other cars all raising cell phones for the inadvertent photo opportunity that was being provided. I was gawking too much to even think about taking a picture, but I’ll try better next time. The rest of the trip into work was uneventlful. Work however, wouldn’t be as lax. 

Working in the mental health industry has had it’s ups and downs. The pros far outway the cons for me, but there are always times when the con presents itself. Yesterday was one of those days. I’ve set healthy boundaries while co-creating positive relationships which has helped tremendously to foster rapport with coworkers and clients. Nonetheless struggles are unavoidable, e..g., the stressfullness that comes with irrational, potentially combative behaviour when a situation is perceived as a crisis by an individual and aid person isn’t able or doesn’t understand how to deal with or address it. Often it leads to a fickle situation. Eventually though these situations pass and composure is regained. These situations can however leave a mark. It’s also part of the reason for my lack of sleep. I’m constantly questioning myself, e.g., did I make the right choice, could I have done things differently, was I helpful, should I have used different terminology, etc. etc.. I’ve also acknowledged that these types of situations can lead to burnout. I’m safeguarding against the latter by understanding my work is meaningful, valuing the impact I have on others, and appreciating the value tha clients have in me. We shall show how it goes. I’m still excited and eager to go to work every day, so I would say I’m doing alright. I must confess that I still need to work on “letting go”. Seems a litte challenging for an empath who desires to help, but I’ll get there. Perhaps I’ll share what I’ve discovered in my next blog post. Anyway After work I arrived home shortly before twenty three thirty and was drained. As you can imagine I grabed a snack and hit the sack. I was too emotionally drained to write a post. 

Fertile lands are built upon volcanic aftermath

26, August 2021

Morning came too early today. I had a difficult night sleeping. My mind was heavy with thoughts of the past. The trickled in mid-day and didn’t seem to vanish. There was something there I needed to sleuth. I think I have concluded why and what I need to do. Not sure if I can follow through or not, but I will figure it out in the next few days. Anyway, there was a nice layer of frost today. I had to scrape the windshield. Nonetheless, it wasn’t bad. It didn’t take long for the car to heat up and I left early so I could get some cookies for a snack. I’ve been craving something sweet lately and can’t seem to find anything in the cabin that fits the description. So I bought some. It was a nice treat for myself. I also bought some bread and eggs while I was there. This would save me a trip after work. Work was nice today. Rather boaring as everyone watched football or slept most the day away. I did learn to play a little cribbage though. This was a fun reward. I must confess, my brain hurt afterwards. It’s a difficult game to learn but I was assured I would catch on within a month. Not sure if that means I’m a slow learner or it’s just that difficult. I’m going to split the difference and say a little of both. I also realized my life is full of fun houses as of late. When I’m not with my financial job I’m doing things on the preserve. Guess that’s why they say when you love your job it’s not really work. I arrived home tonight just in time to see the alpine glow creep up the snowy glaciers until it left only a shadow. I truly live in a beautiful place and one I’m beyond thankful for. Even walking out of the grocery store I found myself speaking the words “thank you” to no one in particular. Anyway, I chose to write this when I got home instead of waiting until bed. Just a littel change in the routine. It helps me keep things interesting. Anywho, until tomorrow 😀

Happy dreams make for happy mornings

25, August 2021

The first thought I found this morning was, “the cranberries are going to be delicious”. The frost covered the grass and twinkled with a shimmer. I’ve got some work today on the preserve and I’m eager to get at it. I’ll be working on a rerout that will add a couple switchbacks to the descending and ascending trail. But before that, pancakes. Cinnamon nutmeg vanilla pancakes actually. I wanted a festive welcoming to accompany the frost. They were delicious. I ate four. While cleaning up breakfast I decided to go ahead and create some room in the cabin for a new indoor endeavor. We’ll see what happens. Until then it’s trail time 😀 I get the appropriate gear and dive head first into it. It sure was nice to get some miles in and enjoy the crisp, clean air. I also found some late season nagoon berries that I munched on. Not to mention the scenery was breathtaking. The trail itself is a little sloppy, but it’ll only get better. Hopefully it’ll make the ups and downs a little more enjoyable for the guests.

I didn’t see any wildlife, but I also didn’t expect to. Not with the equipment being used. Shortly after finishing the work I had a video chatt with part of the heart family. Their smiles are so darn contagious. I enjoy talking to Ben. He’s an honest kid. The video lasted roughly an hour and a half before I said good-bye. I sure do miss the heart family. Oh the check engine light I mentioned a few days back. It’s off. It never came back on. It lasted for about one hundred feet that beautiful day and that was it. No complaints from me about it. While I’m on side quests: my brother introduced me to a new type of nut butter. It’s an almond cashew with chia, pumpkin, and flax seed. Hands down my favorite. Pair it with bread and mulberry jam. You’ll be satisfied to surpass tantalizing. At least this was my truth. May not be yours though. Anyhow, after my video chat I put a piece of beef in the pressure cooker. It’s the simplest way I’ve found to make shredded beef. In two and a half hours, without any work, it’s ready to serve for a sandwich. Falls apart with a fork. I really do enjoy simple meals. Lol, I spent the entire time it was cooking asleep; the subtle beep of completion brought me to consciousness. I shredded some sharp cheddar and ate two pulled beefs. That’s my day. No dessert. My baking abilities hover around dreadful. I just can’t seem to get it down. 

“Our destinies change if our thoughts are strong enough to create action” Me 😀

24, August 2021

The snow shower of yesterday has all but removed itself from any elevation below the twenty-five hundred feet mark, but that didn’t stop it from falling today. Fortunately I live and work above the one thousand feet marker. It reminds me of my time in Colorado up at Timber Ridge. I lived at the end of the road that went up a mountain and most days it would be sauched in by snow and clouds. The neat thing was half a mile down the road the weather was sunny and clear for miles. Same thing here. It is beyond beautiful. The fall smell was heavy on the air today. Not only here at the preserve, but at work as well. Driving through the aspen tunnels on my way to work caused me to leave fifteen minutes early. I know I drive slow, but include this color and I’m worse than your neighbor Sunday driver. Don’t fret, I pull off so people can pass. Had another fantastic day at the fun house. I completed some onboarding training as well. This took around two and a half hours and required I sit behind a computer screen. This was the most difficult two and a half hours I have had to endure. AAARRRGGGHHH. It was short lived though as I fought through the agony like a knight fulfilling his noble saving a princess mission. I spent the rest of my work day laughing, smiling, and understanding that we’re all the same. That’s me day. 🙂 Nothing exciting or overly ambitious. False, the time behind the computer screen was ambitious. It had tedious as a companion too. 

Keep the people in your life who encourage you to honor your betterment choices