From My Journal Recently

A few little snippets and scribblings out of my journal of late...

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“It is sometimes better to travel hopefully than to arrive” {a fortune cookie fortune that I glued in}

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Summer is a time of fast, hot metabolism…fertile, fecund growth at rates that are downright alarming. It’s also a time to embrace the change that comes with that growth…even when some growing pains are involved. I’m seeking everyday to embrace these growing pains, to stay with the discomfort and look it square in the eye. I want to be brave and step into this new life with my eyes and heart wide open, to greet Fear and Uncertainty as the entwined lovers of my dear friends, Adventure and Living. I want to live in the wonder of a life that says YES (even if sometimes with a slight tremor) rather than the wondering of a life that says “no” or “not now” or “someday.”

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I commute to work now. It’s been years since I had a daily commute…more than a decade if you don’t count law school. I’d forgotten how lovely a little time to transition between home and work can be, the ability to wind up or wind down, the quiet time in the car for contemplation and reflection. We spend so much time rushing willy nilly from here to there, from this task to that, and it dawned on me today how much opportunity we let slip by when we ignore the value of transitions. The pause between breaths, the dreamy possibilities in the half-waking of early morning, the closing of a task well-done and the opening of a fresh challenge, the tipping point between hanging on and letting go. I vow to pay closer attention to the moments in-between, to the tiny spaces where possibility or truth or rest might be hiding…

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I’m reading The Emerald Mile right now. It’s a dangerous book for me in my current state. The craving I’ve felt for big water, for a wild and untamed river, has nearly choked me lately. This summer has been chock-full of everything to do with our move and our camper and preparing to leave this place we’ve called home. Little time has been left for fog-filled mornings casting flies into a gurgling brook or paddling rubber into whitewater, or even for putting one foot in front of the other on a mountain trail. I feel the lack deep in my body. I'm downright cranky with it. There is a place in my center that is parched and shriveled, all papery and thin and dry, desperately thirsty and in need of a river’s quenching respite.  I won’t go another season without a river, without knowing each curve and unforgiving wave. I just won’t do it.

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I just bought a plane ticket to Greece for a fast trip to Athens in September. Four full days. That’s all I’ll have. I want to capture the story of those four fast days: the smell of the city in the first hours of the day, the taste of each morsel, the heat of the afternoon Mediterranean sun. I want to capture Terry’s effort and grace as she marathons in the birthplace of marathons. I want to look, to notice, to see and, perhaps with words and my camera capture just a tiny slice to bring home with me.

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I’ve owed you guys these images for awhile…sometimes it takes me a bit to get around to sharing things here in this space. Mount Rainier National Park and the Hoh Rainforest and the glorious beauty of the Pacific Northwest…

 

A Holy Well

I sat in my rental car in the parking lot of Kylemore Abbey and opened my still-stiff copy of Connemara & Mayo: Mountain, Coastal, and Island Walks, A Walking Guide to the page I’d flagged that morning. Over an Irish breakfast of toast and tomatoes and what seemed to be sixty varieties of meat alongside a steaming french press of excellent coffee, I’d cracked open the guidebook and briefly scanned the maps for a walk in my area of Connemara. The Mweelin loop looked about right: relatively close to my B&B for my rather late start and an introduction that described the walk as an “introductory, difficult grade, looped mountain walk with just one hard climb” that was a mere 8.4k. 

So. Here I was. Reading through the actual route description in the parking lot, suddenly feeling a little more trepidation. I’m an experienced hiker. I’m comfortable with map and compass and the pack I’d loaded that morning had plenty of layers, snacks, and even a Stanley thermos of good, hot tea as a luxury afforded a short day hike. But while I had a compass in hand, my “map” consisted of nothing more than a red dotted line and the most basic of topographies and as I scanned through the route description, I noted a distinct lack of references to trails or trail markers. But seriously, how hard can it be…I mean, it’s a mere five miles and not exactly isolated backcountry wilderness.

“At the main road turn left, walking carefully along the N59 for about 200m- just before the dangerous bend- where there is a basic gate on your right leading to a wet track."

So I turned left at the road and began my walk. The road was quite winding and had no shoulder to speak of (we’re in Ireland after all), so every bend felt a bit “dangerous” as cars whizzed by at 80km/hr. About 3 minutes after reaching the road, there was a gate on my right, a bit overgrown by brambles, and the faintest indication of single track on its other side. Was this my gate? I peered back down the road in the direction I’d come. Had I come 200 meters already? Why has the U.S. not switched to the stupid metric system already…how far was 200 meters? A football field is 100 yards, and a yard and a meter are roughly similar…had I walked at least two football fields? I looked again at the gate and then at the bend in front of me on the road. Was this the dangerous one? I decided to walk a little further and turn around if I didn’t see something that seemed more…legitimate?

I passed a wild goat and her kid munching on the brambles along the road, giving momma and her stink eye as wide a berth as I could without stepping too far onto the death trap of blind curves that the N59 was beginning to feel. A few minutes later I came to a bigger gate and a double track whose tire marks were defined by long lines of standing water. Ahhh…”wet track”…this must be my gate. But do I really just open some farmer’s gate and walk onto the property? Was some Irish version of the cattle rancher going to set upon me with shotgun yelling at my trespass? I consulted my guidebook again.

“Follow this track over the stream and past the excellent remains of a limekiln."

Okay then. Apparently crossing onto this property was acceptable.

Making sure the gate was securely fastened behind me, I began following the track. My feet were immediately soaked, but I’d anticipated that when choosing my footwear for the occasion, running shoes not exactly being famed for their water tightness. What I hadn’t expected was the spongey ground, the way the water rose and puddled around my feet as I stepped into the grassy areas around the standing water. So this is what “peat bog” looks like. I’d always envisioned something more swamp-like, more fetid and decomposing, but these golden grass covered hills were simply breathtaking in their openness. I was smiling as I walked and already feeling the effects of being in open air despite the sounds of the N59 directly behind me. 

I reached what were clearly the remains of the limekiln and paused to take some photos and just watch the sheep surrounding me, the antics of the new lambs hysterical. I reached for my guidebook, feeling an unwarranted sense of confidence considering that all I’d done at this point was manage to find and cross the proper gate and follow a well-marked track (that ended at the limekiln). 

“Continue up the quarry and past the remains of a megalithic (court) tomb to the holy well; there is a children’s burial ground to the south which may have earlier been a monastic site."

Ummm. Cool. Sooooo…in this landscape of hills small and large around me, will one of them be obvious as a megalithic tomb? And precisely what, exactly, designates a well as “holy”? Will there be a sign? A cross? If I drink from it, will I stay forever this age as in Tuck Everlasting

There was a sheep trail leading toward the hills and that seemed as good a path to follow as any, so off I went hoping that the tomb and holy well would be apparent when I came to them. The day was crisp, the clouds coming together to darken the skies and then breaking apart to allow sunshine and blue sky to set the golden landscape sparkling. The wind was ceaseless, but not unfriendly in its pushing and as I walked, I could feel myself shedding the rigors of travel, the sense of claustrophobia I’d been fighting for weeks as my schedule at home was buried under long weekdays at my computer and weekends in rigorous study.

I was reminded once again how little is truly required to get here, to get to this feeling of wildness and freedom. It’s an amazing thing to walk into wild places and spend time days away from the nearest person. To be on land that is rugged and unforgiving and to be tested. But much of that sensation of being able to breathe, of feeling connected to the rhythms and cadences of the birds and the wind and the terrain underfoot, doesn’t require such extremes. If I turned around and looked back in the direction from whence I came, I could see the winding roadway below as it slipped in and out of the trees. I could see the imposing structure of Kylemore Abbey on the banks of its lake. “Civilization” was less than a full mile away. But if I turned my back to that road, I could no longer hear it. If I turned my back to that road, only the golden hills were before me and beside me. Yes, the sheep surrounding me were domesticated, but is a new mother any less fierce in her protective instincts simply because humans collect her wool? I was bawled at and run from and postured at as I walked, and the wide dark eyes of the new lambs were no less magical for their domestication. I felt the freedom and connection wash over me with every soggy step I took and thrilled at the beauty surrounding me.

As I came to a small stream with a tiny ancient stone building at its root, I guessed that this must be my holy well. But was it a well at all? It seemed to be a spring. And it seemed old, but could that designate it as holy? I dipped my fingertips into the icy water. Good lord, I love moving water. Raftable whitewater rivers or minuscule trickling streams, it doesn’t matter, I feel for the sound of water gliding over rocks the way some people feel for the sound of waves crashing on a beach. I closed my eyes and reveled in the sound, taking it in in deep gulps, sating my thirst for the sounds of water running free. Holy indeed.

Eventually, I looked around for anything that might resemble a megalithic tomb. Had I passed it? The hills around me were rolling and none seemed any more tomb-like than the others. I pulled out my compass and looked south. Could that grouping of lichen-covered stones be the children’s burial ground? I walked toward it, wind whistling around me. As I approached, I saw that someone had kindly erected a small headstone wishing eternal rest on all departed souls and felt a wave of compassion for the bereaved parents of these long-buried children who were granted such a view in their final resting place. 

“Continue in a southeasterly direction until you reach the National Park’s deer fence on your right. Follow the fence until it turns sharply right. Leave the fence and continue straight uphill into a grassy bowl."

I spotted the deer fence and made my way to it. I followed its ascent for a bit and when it seemed to veer right, I continued straight. And by straight, I mean straight uphill. Which was what the guidebook instructed. But "straight uphill” went quickly from walking to scrambling, trying to find purchase in the soggy earth for digging fingers and toes as I lumbered upwards with my pack suddenly feeling like it’s meager weight was working to pry me backwards and send me tumbling. After nearly 15 minutes of this scrambling, I reached what seemed to be my “grassy bowl.” I wiped my wet hands on my soaked knees and looked around at the spectacular view I’d just earned with my efforts. It was quite wonderful and I felt quite pleased with myself.

Right up until I looked down at the deer fence that I’d been so eager to leave at its first veer right.

What I’d assumed was my sign to depart the fence line was no more than a slight curve, I now saw. If I’d continued to walk along it’s edge for another 50 yards or so, the fence there took- you guessed it- a sharp right turn. From my view atop my little perch, I could clearly see the intended line, the steep, but hike-able (albeit longer) route to the grassy dip between my little hilltop and the larger mountain next to me. Duh.   

I looked down at the route I’d just scrambled up. And then I looked at where I was supposed to be. And then I looked at the gathering storm clouds that were parting for sunshine with less and less frequency. And then I laughed with the tiny adventure of it all. It’s a glorious thing to feel a bit lost occasionally. I was safe. I had plenty of warm layers and a view that stretched to the general area of where my car was parked. I was in no danger. But I had taken several leaps of faith, wondered which gate I was to cross, wondered whether the building over the spring qualified as a “holy well,” taken a wrong turn and needlessly scrambled up a hill that turned out to be wrong. And it was absolutely, incandescently, wonderful.

There was soggy peat under my fingernails from where I’d plunged them into the earth, where I’d connected in such a tactile way to this land so far from my home. It’s usual, when we travel, that we travel to a nation’s great cities. It makes sense that we would do this as these cities are hubs of language and culture and history and it’s only natural that we would want to absorb as much “foreignness” as possible when we’ve spent our hard-earned dollars on plane tickets to somewhere far away. But there is something to be said for stepping away from those cities, for heading to the open and wild spaces of another land, to experiencing this connection to the taste of its wind and sun and rain, the texture of its soil. 

I remembered my thermos of good hot tea and my journal beckoning from my pack and decided that I was happy on my little hard-won patch of soggy peat and golden grass. As I spread my rain jacket on the ground and sat back against my pack, the sun broke once again through the dense clouds and warmed my upturned face as I felt shallow roots begin to reach from my soaked feet into these saturated hills.

We both find and leave behind bits and pieces of ourselves as we travel through our lives, as we dig out places where we fit and feel and call home, even temporarily. I don’t know if the spring I came across here was holy in the traditional sense or not, but I do know that the search for it certainly was. That to step out of comfort, to cross an unknown gate to step in muddy waters and trudge up unknown obstacles without feeling sure that any of them will take you to your intended destination is indeed a holy crusade and one for which I will take up arms again and again in search of the grail of deep contentment and limitless connection.

Learning to Go Slow in Caye Caulker, Belize

It occurred to me this morning that exactly a year ago, I was in the midst of a bit of a travel frenzy. It began with an icy engagement session on a Christmas tree farm outside of Toronto in which the temperatures dropped so low that my camera gear began to have issues and frostbite to our fingers was an actual risk. I arrived home from that long weekend with less than 12 hours to dump my luggage and re-pack it for ten days of shooting in the mountains near San Salvador. I traded mittens for sunscreen and gorged myself on green mangoes soaked in lime juice and chili powder for next week and a half as I shot for a service organization building homes in the small town of Talnique. Which brings me to exactly one year ago today.

With a full 48 hours between flights, I’d managed to have my camera gear cleaned, catch up on my laundry, and, you know, spend more than an hour or two with my boy and our dog in our snowy Maine spring. And then it was back to Central America and sunshine for an assignment in Belize.

You may remember some of my first week in Belize…maybe when I mistakenly ordered 16 tacos at the market, or when I spent the morning with Mayan ghosts before meeting little Vivianna, who reached in and grabbed my heart. I wandered western Belize and learned to make tortillas from a true master and began to slough off the frenzied feel that my many flights and transitions over the last month had left me with. I’m an introvert by nature, albeit a very outgoing one, and the time spent wandering alone began to re-energize me and reignite my desire for engagement.

So it was in this state that I made my way to the small island of Caye Caulker and a different Belize altogether. Gone were the howler monkeys and scorpions and in their place bright orange starfish and the great birds of the sea. It was a sensory feast of turquoise water, brightly painted buildings, diverse ethnicities, a vast array of scrumptious street food, and a level of relaxation unparalleled by anywhere I’d ever been before. I settled into my hotel the day before I was scheduled to begin shooting for a yoga retreat and began to tune into the island vibe.

It was actually the next day that I really learned what Caye Caulker was all about. Having met a friend and retreat participant as she disembarked from her ferry ride to the island, we decided to wander down to the famous Split and have a beer before the retreat officially kicked off later in the evening. Enchanted by the music and the setting sun, we lost track of time and suddenly realized that we would be late for the retreat kickoff. As we power walked our way back to the hotel, suddenly stressed at the prospect of our late arrival, a barefoot man with no shirt and the world’s most impressive set of dreadlocks, looked at us from across the narrow “road” filled with strolling people and yelled over to us, “Why da FUCK you goin’ so fast!?!?!” 

After a startled moment that hung in the air for the briefest second, Shelley and I burst out laughing. Why were we going so fast on an island where the official motto is “Go Slow”? 

Isn’t this the story of our lives? We rush about in whatever way our frenzy of the moment requires, driven insane by the dings of our cell phones and emails and repeating often to each other and ourselves some variation of “When I have time to slow down…” except that we never make time to slow down. Sometimes we even find ourselves on an island with a “Go Slow” motto for a yoga and mindfulness retreat and it still takes a random dreadlocked stranger yelling at us before we even realize that we’re still rushing around.

Go Slow.

It really is just that simple. 

Francelia's Tortillas- A Recipe

The running of Chaa Creek's wonderful little Macal River Camp is a family affair. Dulcio is the general go-to for just about everything with his son, Ariel, by his side! His wife, Francelia, does all of the cooking and manages to almost single-handedly feed anywhere in the range of 3 to 30 people twice a day! Her food is more than delicious…it is made with such care and expertise and I found myself on more than one occasion quite convinced that those of us down at the camp were eating the very best Chaa Creek had to offer, despite our more modest accommodations.

Ariel, Dulcio, Francelia, Alan

Ariel, Dulcio, Francelia, Alan

Not only is Francelia an incredible cook, but she is warm and welcoming and was endlessly patient as I asked her question after question about the scrumptious food that showed up on my plate twice a day. I couldn't get enough. She would smile and humbly describe what she was making, always shrugging nonchalantly as I exclaimed at the effort she went to to cook everything from scratch with fresh, local ingredients.

Dulcio helps Francelia sometimes, too!

Dulcio helps Francelia sometimes, too!

One morning I poked my head into her kitchen in search of another cup of coffee and found her making tortillas. My interest was piqued as I have an utter weakness  for chewy, fresh, homemade tortillas. By the end of the conversation, Francelia had agreed to pick up a comal (a flat metal pan that sits on the stovetop for cooking tortillas) for me to take home and to teach me to use it that evening after dinner. 

Without further ado…Francelia's tortilla recipe:

Ingredients

1lb flour*

3tsp baking powder

1/3tsp salt

1 1/2 tablespoon lard {shortening can be substituted}

Water*

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(1) Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together with a whisk

(2) Work in the lard/shortening until it has a cornmeal-like consistency

(3) Add water a little at a time, beginning to knead the dough as soon as it will stick together enough to knead; keep adding water a few teaspoons at a time until the consistency is similar to that of pizza dough

(4) Let dough rest for 10-15 minutes

(5) Grease your hands and countertop with additional lard/shortening- the grease rather than flour is key; keep more on hand for reapplication throughout the process

(6) Form dough into balls- Francelia recommended beginning with small tortillas and I generally form a ball that is between a golf-ball and racquetball in size

(7) Heat your flat surface (griddle, frying pan, comal) on a burner over medium heat- you may find that you need to adjust your heat slightly up or down depending on how long it takes your tortillas to cook or if they are burning

(8) Flatten the ball between the palms of your hand to form a disc and then place on the greased countertop and use your greased fingers to stretch the tortilla out in a circle taking care not to rip the dough; try to stretch the dough quite thin

(9) Taking care (this takes practice!), transfer the stretched tortilla to the cooking surface

(10) Flip the tortilla when the dough has bubbled and has begun to brown on the underside

(11) Eat hot and fresh, with eyes closed and in a state of pure bliss

* Francelia recommends Bebe Agua flour, a baker's flour, which seems to only be available in Belize; I've had good luck with just a basic organic unbleached white flour, but note that the amount of water you use depends on your flour!

Metta, another guest at the camp, snapped this shot of Francelia teaching me and Dulcio laughing at my bumbling efforts!

Metta, another guest at the camp, snapped this shot of Francelia teaching me and Dulcio laughing at my bumbling efforts!

Mo' Love, Mon!

"Da world, it needs mo' love, mon! Whatchu need, what we ALL need, is mo' love!"

The rasta dude with glistening ebony skin and an enormous, dazzling white smile was clearly selling something from the two plastic 5-gallon buckets strapped to the side of the rusty bike he was pushing along the thoroughfare, but I had absolutely no idea what it might be. Passersby didn't so much as glance up as he yelled out about the world's need for "mo' love, mon" and I watched as he made his way across San Ignacio's central green in my direction.

When he was a few feet from the bench where I sat munching my way through the epiphany of fried flour and mashed beans and stringy melted cheese that were my pupusas, our eyes met and I couldn't help but smile big at his mischievous expression.

"Ahhh, girlie," he exclaimed, "you look like you already got plenty o' love wit a smile like dat!" He grinned even wider and slapped my hand in a gregarious high-five as he passed and continued across the green and down a side street. I could hear his message of love long after I could spot his impressive dreadlocks or decaying bicycle or buckets of mystery substance.

I finished the last bites of my pupusas, licking every last bit of flavor from my fingers, and waved goodbye to the two Mennonite women at the cart whose talented hands had made my scrumptious lunch.

This was a first for me, this traveling in another country without companion or agenda. All of my past international experiences had included one or the other (usually both), but I had an entire week ahead of me in Belize before I was due in Caye Caulker to work. This combination of foreignness and freedom was both thrilling and intimidating and I was still making heads and tails of it, though my experience accidentally purchasing sixteen tacos at the market the day before was exactly the breakthrough idiocy I'd needed to begin to settle in.

With nothing but my personal whims and fancy as my guide, I decided to spend the day ahead simply wandering. I wandered a few miles up to the Mayan ruins at Cahal Pech, making sure that I knew the way so that I could explore them as the sun rose the next morning. I wandered past pastel homes built high on stilts with yards strewn with sleeping dogs and children's toys. I wandered into a cluttered convenience store to buy an ice cream from a freezer that sounded as though it were heaving its last as I scraped open its door to retrieve my treat. I sat on a bench in the center of a busy roundabout to eat a tamale next to a cracked fountain with no water in it and smiled at the man eating his lunch on the bench beside me as a grizzled old vaquero walked his horse through the traffic.

As I made my way back toward my guesthouse, I popped my head into Ajaw to see if there was room for me to join a demonstration in making chocolate in the Mayan tradition. As it turned out, I was lucky enough to get a private lesson in taking the humble cacao bean to sacred Mayan hot chocolate drink. Elida, my teacher, even scolded me on proper form as I ground the beans on the ancient stone metate that her great grandfather had unearthed on his farm decades before.  

Feeling a bit like Juliette Binoche in Chocolat, I left the little shop and headed next door to my guesthouse where the adorable and very pregnant proprietor greeted me warmly. Setting my alarm for 4:00 a.m., I collapsed onto the bed thinking of all of the love that had touched my small world that day, smiling again at the thought of my rasta friend, and fell asleep already dreaming of the coming sunrise spent with Mayan gods.

Sweet Sixteen

As I circled el mercado for the third time I could hear my stomach rumbling above the din of the crowd. Apparently so could the gangly teenage boy with the big chocolate eyes who was handing me my change for the three bananas I'd just purchased. He looked up at me in surprise and then broke into a wide grin.

"¡Comé!" he exclaimed, pointing at my bananas.

"Gracias," I smiled back and nodded as I began to walk away.

But it wasn't bananas I wanted. The breeze shifted in the already hot morning air and once again the tantalizing aromas of grilling meat, grease, and spicy hot peppers wafted over me. As if Mr. Pavlov had just rung his infamous bell, my mouth immediately watered.

In Belize less than 24 hours, the last time I ate anything of real substance was before my 6am flight yesterday morning. By the time I reached my hotel room late last night, I could barely keep my eyes open long enough to eat my crushed granola bar in three bites before falling asleep on top of the covers still wearing the clothes I'd traveled in all day. This morning I woke early and by the end of my glorious (if rather cold) shower, I was energized, excited, and hungry.

I passed the shrunken old man in the bent straw hat and the young boy working alongside him as they cleaned their enormous pile of coconuts with razor sharp machetes and unbelievable precision and ease. I made a mental note to come back to their booth for fresh coconut water to enjoy on my walk back to my hotel later. But first...

I hesitated and immediately grew annoyed with myself. I was intimidated. I can get like this when I arrive in a new place, becoming uncharacteristically timid, a little overwhelmed until I get my bearings. It drives me crazy. Now I was hungry and lacked patience…this was not the time or place to be shy.

I walked past the stand that had grabbed my attention on my first two passes, three women moving quickly and surrounded by such an enormous crowd that I had no idea what it was that they were selling. The crowd jostling for position appeared to be predominately local, so I joined the mass of people shouldering forward, sure that the combination of local crowd and irresistible smell made this an ideal spot to begin my culinary adventures in Belize. 

As I was knocked from side to side by the press of people around me, I craned to get a glimpse at what we were all so eagerly awaiting.I finally spotted the gigantic aluminum cook pots and covered plastic bowls perched atop a red-checked vinyl tablecloth and one of the women using a battered cookie sheet as a tray, balancing it precariously as she assembled the various mystery fillings on fresh soft corn tortillas.

Tacos!!! 

In my elation, I missed the opening to my right and three men in their early twenties deftly sidestepped me and jumped in to order. You snooze, you lose. I used the delay to try to get a sense of the ordering protocol. People were holding up fingers, some just one or two, but others all five. The number of tacos they wanted? I assumed that was the case and pressed closer to try to hear the questions the women were asking. No luck.

"Perdón, Señor," I attempted to ask one of the twenty-something guys in my less-than-stellar Spanish,"qué es este?" He gave me a long look, clearly unimpressed.

"Tacos," he snapped and turned away. Alrighty then.  

Suddenly it was my turn. I held up four fingers and just said yes to everything she asked me, having absolutely no idea what I was agreeing to. With confidence her hands flew, assembling a cookie-sheet tray full of tacos that I assumed were multiple orders. As she began stacking them onto one plate, taco upon taco, I began to realize that my one-finger-means-one-taco assumption was clearly wrong. 

"Cuatro," she said and held out a hand. I looked at her for a moment, confused. Four? Yes, I'd ordered four tacos, but there were a lot more than four tacos on the plate she was holding. 

"Cuatro," she repeated and pushed her hand out more, beginning to look exasperated. Duh. Four dollars. Four dollars worth was what I'd asked for when I'd held up four fingers. I handed over my cash and as she grabbed a napkin to go with my bulging plate, I did a quick count.

Sixteen. I had a plate of sixteen tacos. 

I looked up from my taco pile and met the eyes of Mr. Twenty-something Grumpypants. There was a pause that seemed to hang there for a long moment and then I burst out laughing. He looked surprised for a brief second and then gave in and joined me, clapping one of his comrades on the shoulder and pointing at my plate. I offered them each a taco and after they acquiesced at my prodding, I made my way back out of the throng to find a quiet place to stuff myself on my remaining thirteen.

As I settled on the ground beneath a giant ceiba tree and looked out at the Macal River gently meandering past, I realized that my intimidation was gone. In a single botched taco order, I'd broken through my own inhibitions and self-consciousness. I'd mangled some Spanish but managed to communicate enough and even had a few glorious moments of connection and community, even if it was over a shared laugh at my own foolery. A pretty good deal at only four bucks.

I ate every single one of those thirteen insanely amazing tacos and licked the grease off my dripping fingers when I finished. I began planning a few more laps around el mercado, this time wondering how long before I'd have room enough to hit up the pupusa stand.

Belize_SanIgnacio_Market_travel_local_food-001.jpg

Thank you so much for your patience as I get back to my "regularly scheduled programming"! I have so much to share with you and am more than a little excited to get some posts wrapped up and scheduled! Happy spring, y'all!