July 2008


I have so many blog “drafts” it’s embarrassing, and mainly it’s because the workload here is still 12+ hrs a day, occupied from 5:45am to 8:00pm.

The things I do for Taller Leñateros are going to seem ridiculous: I scribble the names of all the managers and directors of hotels, restaurants, and schools on my arm, under my cardigan sleeve when no one is looking, and annotate their quirks for personal gifts or conversation. I dress well to persuade (in my most convincing way possible) the most elegant/centralized establishments to let me position our brand on their front window pane or glass doors. And I make several rounds around town to say hello, make group appointments and check if they need any maps or publicity, and taxi things over if they do.

I am, and always will be, an entrepreneurial spirit—it’s in my blood. It seems that almost all of my family and relatives are successful in their endeavors. And one thing strange about Chiapas is that locals are genuinely astonished that our things are completely in a timely and responsive manner, earlier than they expected.

Internally, however, working with Mayans/mestizos and making them sustainable is strenuous. Because either: (1) they ignore or do not see the opportunities that I see, or (2) the remnants of an inferiority complex due to socio-economic class prevents them from charming the clients or the workforce of a luxury establishment, and so they don’t even want to go in the door, or (3) there isn’t a culture of excelling and achieving greatness, and “good enough” is the way of life, or (4) they take a long time to get requests done… if it gets done at all. There’s more, which I’ll describe when I’m in a better constitution. In short, they are not very capitalist and the whole aspect of commercialization and sales is a black box in which they would rather not try to understand. It is incredible that we have do not have a problem with the supply-side or the demand-side… production is doing well and many clients are willing to buy. Rather it is bringing those together, the merging of the two in the process of the sale… *sigh*

There has also been spiteful resentment for some of my colleagues working with someone like me, not only because I tend to keenly focus on making daily results happen and consequently perform far more intensely than they are accustomed to… but a backlash because of my presence: the privilege and education I represent, and what that means. So even though I’ve brought in increased growth for everybody, and people are finally getting paid their full salaries…in reality there are several who resent the fact that some clients come in looking for Victoria or leave great comments for Victoria and buy a lot more merchandise when Victoria is there, and establishments will easily say ‘yes’ to Victoria. (Admittedly, I would be really sick of it too.) Whatever the case, I know my place in the world and who I am and what I’m good at. I feel tremendously proud of the results we’ve all come together as a team to accomplish, and I sleep at night feeling peaceful. Welcome to development work.

Speaking of peaceful, this is the early morning fog that rolls in through the mountains and nestles into the valley. Barely perceptible, and floating translucent only for those who arise to greet the day.

Neblina

Neblina Desde Nuestro Patio

Today and tomorrow, I’ll be an secondary interpreter for Marcos, who works with public health for Indigenous Mayan mothers with certain foundations such as the WHO or United Nations. It might bring in the funds they need, and help me learn more about the malnutrition that is prevalent in Chiapas, Mexico.

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“GREATEST LOVE OF ALL”

written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed performed by Whitney Houston

I believe that children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be

Everybody’s searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone who fulfilled my need
A lonely place to be and so I learned to depend on me

I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow
If I fail, if I succeed at least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all inside of me
The greatest love of all is easy to achieve

Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all

I believe that children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us of how we used to be

I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow
If I fail, if I succeed at least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all inside of me
The greatest love of all is easy to achieve

Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all

And if by chance that special place that you’ve been dreaming of
Leads you to a lonely place, find your strength in love

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Spanish Words of the Day:esquirla” chip of stone | “hojaldrado, hojaldre” flaky | “mentón” chin |”desapacible” nasty, unpleasant | “llama” flame

German Words of the Day: “arbeit macht frei” work will set you free.

The Trattoria Italiana on Avenida Belisario Dominguez has sumptuous offerings of handmade ravioli with shrimp and fish sole, paired with a savory rosemary-garlic-feta cheese sauce. I also enjoyed the toasted cacciatore with olive oil and pesto… and it made my lunch so delicious that next time I’m going to order the Emilia-Romagna tagliatelle with pine nuts and orange essence oil. Federica and her mother are so sweet it almost makes me want to visit Italy. Almost. I finished the day with an appointment at Salon Tania, with a new haircut and styling, which promptly got ruined by the intense rain. At the Posada Real de Chiapas, I also met up with some clients I had known before, and it was a very amicable conversation and I enjoyed their company tremendously.

I’ve moved to my new residence in San Cristobal de las Casas, we are in Barrio de Cuxtitali, and here is my staying place. ¿Cómo lo ves?

Telescope and Study.

Dining table and our work desk. We often start up the fireplace in the chimney.

Corridor with our constant companions Ciruela and Totopo. Master Suite.

The hallway to the front door, decorated with foliage and bamboo.

Master suite, where we have ambiental music from all over the world.

The veranda with the sunroof.

Kitchen and our hearth. Amanda selected a magnificent bouquet for us.

The yard view of San Cristobal de Las Casas and mountains. Some days we have a picnic or flowery lunch outside, with lemonade and saffron seasoned rice.

Three story house on a gentle hill overlooking the city.

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Spanish Words of the Day: “Montes Urales” Ural Mountains | “garúa, llovizgar” drizzle | “creer algo a machamarillo” to believe in something firmly or ardently | “los mieles de su descubrimiento” the fruit of your discovery/work | “membrillo” quince jelly

From the prologue of “Great Tourist Guide: Chiapas. The world of the Mayas, archeology, museums, cities and villages, jungle, ecotourism, beaches, gastronomy and tourist services.”

“Among the oldest prehistoric evidences in Chiapas there are stone tools that date back to over 14,000 years, found in the Teopisca-Agutenango region. Other findings, about 7,000 years old, belong to people who inhabited caves such as those at Ocozocoautla, Santa Marta. and at the canyon of La Venta River. In the latter, there are still some rupestrian paintings.

From historic times, there are many evidences from ancient Olmecs, who inhabited a vast area during the early Preclassic period (1200 BC). Most of these Olmec sites are not yet open to the public. However, if you visit Pijijiapan, you will be able to observe the Relief of the Soldiers, a monolith that was sculpted over 3200 years ago.

Other ancient settlements of the Preclassic period belonged to the Zoque culture, and among them stands Izapa in the Soconusco region. Izapa is a huge archeological site that should not be missed when you visit Tapachula, in southern Chiapas.

The Mayan People, with an origin yet unknown, built their great cities during the Classic period (300 to 900 AD) and prospered mainly on the lowlands of the Usamacinta River in what are the Mexican states of Chiapas and Tabasco, and Peten region in Guatemala. Consider visiting the Mayan-Nahua Postclassic settlements (900 to 1500) found near the Montebello Lakes, such as Chinkultic, Tenam Puente, and Lagartero.”

…After all the hustle and bustle of the week, Marcos took us all on a brief afternoon trip to Arconene… All the photos are loaded here on my Picasa Album.



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Spanish Words of the Day: “cachetes, mejillas” cheeks | “colmena” beehive | “atinado” spot-on, sensible, wise

Lazy and idyllic Sunday after a difficult week of work. The hotel lobby strategies are yielding well, some $18,000 this week at Holiday Inn (alone) for working only a few hours per day in the morning. I helped teach a course for $2200, including tips. Now we just have to make the magic happen for the sales points.

I wake up thinking of ways to find $25,000+ a week for Taller Leñateros, and in San Cristobal I find that opportunities are simply veiled, but always there. It takes imagination and execution, and energy to achieve excellence and steady growth.

As a retreat and gift to myself, I got an aromatherapy holistic massage. I’m also staying for two nights at Claudia’s, a beautiful adobe sanctuary, accompanied by Queta, her adorable pug. What I love about my amiga, is that she is so tres chic, sophisticated and fabulous. Hangers full of elegant clothes and perfect stuff from all around the world. She’s the one I go out to try fancy restaurants and artisan chocolate places and talk about business strategy with.

I know, I know, I’m doing poverty development and it’s not that I can’t adapt to the standards of the indigenous and poor. But there’s nothing wrong with the adventure of being able to rough it and get dirty in field philanthropy with villagers, and also be glam and feminine once in a while. Who ever said elegance and style had to stay separated from Third World villages?

Queta and the living room with all her toys.

Cute things and my guest room bed. I slept nine hours today!! So good.

Beautiful curve and arch of the stairs.

Queta is looking for me. The other room.

You are in the presence of a ladies’ pad.

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Spanish Words of the Day: recompensa” reward | “acotición” marginal note, liminal range | “trillar” to thresh | “acotamiento” shoulder

After a day of work, what a fabulous night of celebration. Candles and sizzling food from the kitchen. I walked home feeling pampered and like the city was sparkling for me.

Last night, I was invited to the charming Posada Real de Chiapas to help a special event. Glasses of pox (aguardiente maya) was flowing and all the guests were merry. I also had the most sumptuous mug of chocolate almendrado to warm my soul, and met a few guests from Monterrey, and took these photos.


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Spanish Words of the Day:la bronca” annoying thing | “lagartijas” lizards | “sonarse los mocos” to blow one’s nose

Another photo summary of the Mayan cooperative. What goes on behind the scenes of making artisan books and paper.

Spanish Words of the Day:lota” lotus | “contrarrestar/neutralizar el regusto, limpiar el paladar de la comida” clean the palate | “vender al por menor, al detalle” retail

Who does not remain inspired by this?

Spanish Word of the Day: “urdir” to warp, to cast on, to devise

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