26 hour journey to Atlanta: We ate at Old Lady Gang

In commemoration of the new season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta (no, I do not watch this show or any other show for that matter-we have a Firestick and internet only.  No, not a fully loaded, or even partially loaded one, just the basic one where you pay for add-ons and subscriptions.  Let me back track, I did pay for the last 3 seasons of being Mary Jane because I LOVE MARY JANE PAUL.  She is me, I am her, we are Pauletta (in my soul at least).  Okay, and I have paid for the past 2 sessions of How to get Away with Murder but haven’t committed to splurging on the current season).

Back to the matter at hand!  I didn’t blog about it, but I spent two weekends in a row in Atlanta this part September-can you believe that it’s already November?  Let’s hear it for Thanksgiving.

Euphoria rings through my food-loving flesh at the thought of dressing

With cranberry sauce

Collards

And cornbread baked to golden brown perfection in a cured, cast iron skillet […]

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In commemoration of the new season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta (no, I do not watch this show or any other show for that matter-we have a Firestick and internet only.  No, not a fully loaded, or even partially loaded one, just the basic one where you pay for add-ons and subscriptions.  Let me back track, I did pay for the last 3 seasons of being Mary Jane because I LOVE MARY JANE PAUL.  She is me, I am her, we are Pauletta (in my soul at least).  Okay, and I have paid for the past 2 sessions of How to get Away with Murder but haven’t committed to splurging on the current season).

Back to the matter at hand!  I didn’t blog about it, but I spent two weekends in a row in Atlanta this part September-can you believe that it’s already November?  Let’s hear it for Thanksgiving.

Euphoria rings through my food-loving flesh at the thought of dressing

With cranberry sauce

Collards

And cornbread baked to golden brown perfection in a cured, cast iron skillet

Yams

Cooked to amazingness, and generously spiced with the perfect combination of sugar, nutmeg, vanilla extract, cinnamon and butter

Baked macaroni and cheese with crispy edges-although I am definitely lactose-intolerant and aware of the fact that my stomach will be bloated and I’ll be the one sneaking around letting off little stink bombs wherever I stand

Fried corn-like only my adorable dear (translation: grandmother-the matriarch of the Smith family) can prepare it

Lasagna-my mom makes this dish (she can’t really cook for real, so she has mastered this one thing)

Savory sweet potato pie with my secret ingredients-ginger and a hint of cayenne powder, only because I SUCK at keeping secrets

Of course there is turkey, ham and whatever other meats are prepared, but I love the sides and fill up on them, with several helpings, and have no room for meats

And a consolation prize for all of the random, “you should’ve left that at home” items people waste their time cooking and carrying to my grandmother’s, as if anyone except for them and their sad children will eat it when you have dears food as the alternative.  You get a heartfelt thank you

Back to Atlanta.  I accidentally drove 13 hours (one way) to Atlanta to attend a conference that wasn’t until… the following weekend.  So of course I had to return the next weekend for the originally intended trip.  During weekend one, to avoid it being an epic fail, I visited Old Lady Gang with my mother (who took the waste of a trip with me).  

Upon arrival, we joined the line of about 15 other people-we arrived about 15 minutes before they opened.  

It was a hot day in Atlanta, however being from Milwaukee (where it had started to cool) I didn’t complain about having to wait in the sun.  As my mom and I basked in the sun rays that caused sweat beads to trickle down my spine, we could hear others complain about how hot it was.  I personally tried to ignore the griping because a) I’m from Wiscansin, home of 8 month winters and b) I was trying to stay positive-Charlie Brown womp, womp discourage me NOT!

Finally we were inside and seated.  

I won’t waste time on decor because… it looked like a restaurant, it was clean, I didn’t go there for decorative inspiration-really it was hot outside and by the time we got in my vision was half blurred and I could barely make out where I was.  NO. JUST KIDDING about the last part.

We were sat by a friendly host and immediately my eyes were glued to the menu.  By this time, it was after 10:15 am.  I had not eaten breakfast.  My stomach was giving me verbal reminders that we needed nourishment to sustain.  

Seated next to us, two hilarious women who I’m assuming had just come from church.  How can you make that assumption?  They had on makeup and church clothes (translation: Sunday’s Best, they were suited and booted, looking rather fancy, dressed to impress, a step higher than job interview fashions) but again, I was in Atlanta and it almost seemed like Black people there only had closets full of Sunday’s Best.  Not a casual Fashion Nova Netflix & Chill set in sight.

It was Sunday. Late morning.  You know what that means…BRUNCH!  millennials and nay (they) mommas love brunch-Mimosa me please (requested through puckered, semi-sophisticated lips).  

Because we were in ATL I knew the brunch would be “southern inspired”.  No problem.

I ordered

Fried Chicken

Collard Greens

Macaroni & Cheese

And as an appetizer, the fried deviled eggs

Mom ordered

Chicken and Waffles

Along with Mimosas, we ordered sweet peach tea.

In the section we were seated in (closest to the bar) the seats are placed within close proximity to each other.  Unless you are a turtle, you are seated so closely, you’re almost forced to communicate with your neighbors.  I saw this as a plus.  As a little caterpillar still peering out of my cocoon that’s disintegrating because it’s time for me to come out, I saw it as a helpful nudge towards social engagement.  

I laughed and conversed with my neighbors and vuala!  The deviled eggs appeared.  

They were beautiful, golden, and hot!  It was clear that whichever chef was at that prep station was playing no (clap) games (claps)- I introduced this manner of speech in an earlier blog, feel free to hit the link to read it and acquaint yourself. Clap explanation

The problem is, I am a young foodie.  

I can cook.

I do cook.

I do cook well.

I go to restaurants, savor the flavor of dishes I enjoy, go home and recreate them, adding my own touches to take them to what I think is the next level, and keep practicing until the dish is incredible

Deviled eggs, I have already mastered.  The fried factor was something new to me and I was ready to experience it, then replicate its goodness at home

I tried my best to lay my preconceived notions aside and fall in love with the dish

It didn’t happen.

IN DEFENSE

I am Black

Black people, eat soul food

It’s a treat and a stable

Most Black people in Milwaukee are migrants of the south by way of the Great Migration

Our grandparents and great-grandparents moved to Milwaukee when it was booming with manufacturing jobs

With them they carried gleeful southern spirits, and the recipes that kept them close to Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and other southern states.

When soul food is made at home with love, patience, a good story and a football game on TV, it is hard to top

While White people eat average (or just below) soul food and marvel, salivate and go on and on about it (we have a couple of basic soul food joints in Milwaukee in the suburbs, where the clientele doesn’t know better); Black people call bulls** and can only be got, that one time.  

Fool me one time, shame on you.  Fool me twice can’t put the blame on you – J. Cole

I wanted to be taken back to my dear’s circular, wood grain kitchen table

I wanted to rest my bum comfortably in the cushioned seat I always sat in just in front of the window

I waited to feel the gust of the breeze on my shins as I swung by little legs back and forth, in food heaven, excited about how good the deviled eggs were

It didn’t happen

While the yoke was whipped beautifully, the fried exterior added nothing to the dish.  It was bland. As if the egg was dipped in white, all-purpose flour and dropped in hot oil until it looked pretty.  For me, it added only a slight texture variation that compromised the addition of flavor and I could have done without it.  

Of course I shared it with my table mates to my right who agreed.

Next up

Hot corn muffins with honey

Corn muffins/bread

the staple of a soul food dinner

My dear is from Mississippi

She can cook in her sleep

Cornbread being a centerpiece that she’d perfected

The corn muffin at Old Lady Gang was again, gorgeous

It was apparent to me that they weren’t in the back setting off any smoke alarms

Not that it was a bad thing, but, the corn muffin was sweet

Jiffy sweet

It was discussed among my small crew (they were promoted from table mates, to my crew by this point) and the verdict was

The chefs simply doctored up a batch of Jiffy cornbread mix with cornmeal and plenty of sugar

Now for the record, I didn’t totally agree with that call

It could’ve been Glory Day’s (another brand of soul food fixin’s that can be purchased at a local grocer)

What I didn’t understand, was what I was supposed to do with honey

I was already eating cornbread cake, how much sweeter did it need to be?!

I ate one muffin and let my mom enjoy the rest

The main course was placed in front of me and again, I thought it was (you guess…) beautiful!  

All of the food was pretty, at least at my crew’s table.

I will admit ret now (right now), I do not like fried chicken

Why would you order it then?

I like the fried skin of fried chicken

YES, enough to order it!

So, being that the skin is the most important part to me, it was good.  It housed every ounce of the seasoning.  

This is a rookie mistake when frying chicken

Although I don’t enjoy chicken, I do know that you must season the chicken, as well as the batter used for the skin.  That’s chicken 101!  

Maybe the favorite ingredient of the chef was sugar, so other seasonings were pushed to the back row.

I bit into the chicken thigh that was juicy, tender and bland

On to the next item, the collard greens

I love collard greens

I eat them for breakfast

I have sautéed them and prepared them for lunch

And of course I can hook up a mean pot of them for dinner

The greens in my shiny white bowl smelled and looked amazing

Forest green with chunks of pork throughout

I anticipated the flavor marrying my tongue and went in to say I do…

The chef was two favorite ingredients

Salt & Sugar

My crew warned by that several reviews talked about how salty the greens were

At that moment I decided, that was the taste they were going for and moved on

But first a few sips of my intro to diabetes sweet tea (it was good though)

Next, macaroni and cheese!

I love baked macaroni and cheese!

My favorite part is the outer crust that forms along the edge where the cheese meets the baking pan.  That’s nirvana in a baking dish

This mac & cheese was cheesy

Yep and that’s that, that’s all I recall about it and I only had about 2-3 forkfuls of it

Old Lady Gang (possibly because of its newness) brings out and joins people from all over

It was great sitting next to women from Atlanta, talking to them about the city, the changes, the positive things that are happening and authentically showing pride for their home

It was great to smile and laugh with black women over a sub-par brunch

The restaurant was clean

The staff-were staffing the place (I personally wasn’t impressed with our server, the manager on duty or the other staff she stood in the corner gossiping loudly about)

Kandi Burruss is a several million dollar, millionaire

With that, my expectations for a restaurant she claims proudly as part of her brand

were high

My expectations for a staff hired to represent her brand

were high

Instead, I got Real Housewives of Atlanta messy

Staff that seemed to be competing with each other in a good ole’ crabs in a bucket fashion

It was sad to see the manager tearing down a staff who needed development and support.  It didn’t make her look better, as she must have perceived it did by the way her voice gradually grew louder and louder, showing no shame in her own ignorance as it relates to building a staff and maintaining a business (note taken for my little entrepreneurial self).

But I also am aware that the restaurant is still in its infancy stage and everyone is still learning

The best part was the socialization, laughs and warm fuzziness I felt while bonding with beautiful black women over a meal

Old Lady Gang,

Thank you

 

Loved on by Black Queens in Albuquerque, New Mexico

I had the awesome opportunity to facilitate a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico  
No, I am not someone who has facilitated a conference in experiences past
But I’ve done similar facilitator roles
Like…
teach a lesson
re-teach a lesson
lead a meeting
train new hires using a curriculum
initiate uncomfortable conversations with ex-boyfriends
listen to their whack-ass arguments and use the asinine responses to build my case, come back with rapid fire, and ensure we never forgot my initial points
debate with my mother, in attempt to bribe or convince her with a scheme
Go back and forth, deliberating intellectually with teachers-in elementary school
Yep, qualifications of a facilitator if you ask me (shoulders shrugging as my head tilts towards the right) […]

I had the awesome opportunity to facilitate a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico
No, I am not someone who has facilitated a conference in experiences past
But I’ve done similar facilitator roles
Like…
teach a lesson
re-teach a lesson
lead a meeting
train new hires using a curriculum
initiate uncomfortable conversations with ex-boyfriends
listen to their whack-ass arguments and use the asinine responses to build my case, come back with rapid fire, and ensure we never forgot my initial points
debate with my mother, in attempts to bribe or convince her with a scheme
Go back and forth, deliberating intellectually with teachers-in elementary school
Yep, qualifications of a facilitator if you ask me (shoulders shrugging as my head tilts towards the right)
I am a participating member of MEDICC, an amazing organization focused on health equity in America through implementation of the Cuban public health model

Lil’ ole me was asked to facilitate because of my engagement with youth, youth development and health equity-sounds a lot fancier than it is, trust me.
I was as nervous as a thief in a Wal-Mart line as the “greeter” asks to see your receipt and the items in your bag to ensure you aren’t stealing Axe spray and Duracell batteries

I again had never played the facilitator role, and understood that I was going to be standing in a room of highly educated professors, researchers, attorneys, doctors, healthcare professionals, funders, community health navigators, a congressman, Ms. Navajo Nation, the Vice President of the Navajo Nation, funders, investors, and sweet baby Jesus himself.

I have always thought I was smart, but honestly (don’t judge me), I’ve compared me being smart to people who hadn’t been to college. Yes, I’ve suffered from the
I’m smart, you’re impoverished,
sling a fancy word here, or there
string together a well-formulated sentence
and say it in my White voice with a condescending “nanny nanny boo boo” tone

Boy was that attitude out of the window
These people were all smart FA REAL
The jig was up!
I had prepared for the conference by participating in planning meetings and being in constant communication with the committee, so I had a good understanding of the expectations.  Nervous I still was
I felt like I wasn’t good enough to facilitate such an event
I’m a baby, and grown-ups were gonna be in the room
Soaking up the same oxygen as peasant Ashley!
In true insecure fashion I went shopping for “grown woman, yet young and trendy business attire”
I went to Nordstrom Rack and picked out the most
“professional,
but look
-it’s young and has a flair of boho”
clothes I could find
I even bought a pair of grown woman business casual grey, suede-like slides with a gold accent on the heel
And to ensure I remained comfortable yet business casual, I splurged on a pair of Lucky Brand, leather black ballet flats
I was ready to SLAY-grownup addition

Because everything I do is at the last possible minute, I went shopping the night before my flight was scheduled to leave-and failed to try on any of the girl boss items I selected because I was too lazy to take my pants off at the store

I arrived home from tutoring and errands around 9pm that evening and was ecstatic to star in a Wendy Williams “classy women” makeover.  I was pumped to model off my new look for my hilarious-yep uh huh looks good-or laugh at you if you look stupid-babe a licious.
Dress #1
Bright Coral, sleeveless with a lace applique of the same tone.  Knee length, classy.  Just classy (whips out church fan and waves it while crossing one leg over the other and bouncing my foot) The dress was a-line with a conservative v-neck.  Did I really like it?  Nope.  But it rang, “listen to me, I’ve got myself together, may I have your attention please” on the rack.
Tried it on in front of the boo; looked horrible
Did not compliment my shape AT ALL and I couldn’t for the life of my figure out who it did look good on.
I even spun the front, to the back, hoping that the tags were just sewn to the wrong side
Nope, it looked even stupider
“Babe how does it look?”
-“Ok”, he lied.
1 dress tossed in the “this isn’t gonna work” pile
Dress  #2
Navy blue, peek-a-boo shoulders with navy blue bows, accenting the sleeves that ended just above the elbow.  The dress had a nice fit without being formfitting.  It relaxed against my curves while having structure and was also knee-length.  The dress was grown up, yet adorable.  It was giving me, “I’m adorable, innocent and a grown up-look at my bronzed shoulders though” vibes
It was literally adorable.  Not my style though
1 dress in the “this is cute, but not for Ashley” pile
At this point my lip pout was forming and I was feeling disappointed in my selections
Like getting a booster (translation: a professional apparel shoplifter-a personal shopper with a hell of an employee discount) who showed up at Christmas with dork clothes instead of the latest fashions you thought would be in the bag
Dress #3
Black sleeveless, scooped neck with thin white lines that ran both vertically and horizontally to form squares, with a busy, pink-toned floral print that ran along the bottom on both the front and back sides and grazed my knee caps
The dress was literally shaped like a rectangle
But the pattern was cute and uh, classy
Tried it on, it swallowed me
I started to cry
Babe laughed
“Ashley did you try any of this on?”
What kinda question was that? “No”.
“Baby what am I gonna wear, all of this looks horrible”-this is not verbatim I used lots of adult choice words as I kicked the ugly clothes around
Traumatized.
It took me back to when I was young, and my mom made me wear the
“Ugliest,
Old-ladyish
rob you of your youth,
I’m trying to embarrass you and make sure you have both no friends and no boys looking in your direction”
clothes, she could find for church.

This downward spiraling trend continued for the remainder of the failed try on haul.
I was in full-blown panic mode, naked and crying that I had nothing to wear
Boyfriend was still filling the role of Mr. Chuckles
“You have a room, turned closet (a full bedroom), you have clothes.  Be you, it’s not about what you have on.  The stuff you bought isn’t you anyway.  Stop over thinking it”, he says.  As if it was profound.
I left my mess and went to bed, woke up and packed comfortable, regular Ashley clothes and was happy
The 3-day conference was amazing
I looked like me
I spoke with confidence
I listened to each person on the program
I listened intently
I kept the room focused
I made sure there was equity of voice
I ensured that the youth spoke and were heard
I kept time
I challenged participants to be engaged
To share
To listen, and answer what was asked
To be open to being uncomfortable
To talk about the things we needed to address but we tip-toe around as a society
To be action oriented
To leave with a clear objective
To listen
To connect
To think critically
To be honest
To trust the process
It was hard.  One of the hardest tasks but I loved it
At one point, I was struggling to keep the group moving forward in the direction we were trying to build towards together
I appreciated that strong, brilliant, supportive black women lifted me up
One of my sistahs/co-workers stopped the process and re-centered the room with her energy and guided meditation
It was needed and I thank her
She protected me
She covered me
The spirit in the room was shifting and I was reignited
Facilitating a collective planning session is a challenge when you have people from all over the US
From different backgrounds
Who serve in diverse communities with their own unique needs
Using differing methods to reach their target population

I needed to be lifted to continue cultivating the space and she saw that need
At the end of the conference, another beautiful black woman came up to me and encouraged me
The message she poured into me was truly for me
She praised me, she hugged me,
She watered me
I needed that
I received
She affirmed that I belonged in that room, commanding the space
She blessed me

I also connecting with a woman I love deep in my soul who I hadn’t seen since before leaving for Guatemala
She too supported me
Helped me
She gave a worry doll that she carried because I was on her mind while in Guatemala exploring
She doesn’t know this but I thank God for her
She is humble, brilliant, youthful, vulnerable, educated, poised, honest, real and beautiful.  I am so fortunate to have a relationship with this Queen!  To stand in the sun next to her feels amazing.

I met who I think is my soulie (translation: soul sister)
She too is black, beautiful, genuine, intelligent, humble, vibrant, radiates confidence, humorous and has a beautiful smile.  She reminds me so much of me, and we are on the same journey of finding self.  While listening to and engaging with her, I saw me.  I didn’t have to try with her; no countdown, no “I think I can” speech.  My connection with her was genuine.  It was real.

It felt amazing to be in a space with black women who possessed so much magic.  Magic they let spill over into my vessel.  Into the vessels of the rest of the women & men of different backgrounds and races in the room.  No competing, no tantruming, no stepping up onto rungs of the latter above the crowd to look down on anyone else over flared nostrils.  We lifted one another.

It felt good to be loved on by women whose traits and knowledge I aspire to attain and build.
Black girl magic potion was in the air
With my arms outstretched
Head tilted back towards the heavens
And with a smile on my face
I twirled in it

Lost in the back of a cab in Coban

I had a great time wandering in Coban.  Every time I set out on a mission to find a specific destination I end up encountering so much more.   
Turning left instead of right, I always find something of interest.   
From a street festival to a new restaurant.   
Even people-watching is interesting and this is how I’m able to gather how people live and the daily functions of locals. […]

I had a great time wandering in Coban.  Every time I set out on a mission to find a specific destination I end up encountering so much more.
Turning left instead of right, I always find something of interest.
From a street festival to a new restaurant.
Even people-watching is interesting and this is how I’m able to gather how people live and the daily functions of locals.
Sometimes I get carried away and walk further than my legs are willing to take me for the return trip-that’s a half truth.
Yes I wandered further than 30 minutes from the hotel.  Yes I could’ve walked back.  No I wasn’t excited at the idea of walking an additional 30 minutes.  It is rainy season and it had starting to drizzle sparingly-there you have it, my real excuse.
I have one cab driver that I call when I want to go on an adventure.  However, I had no idea of my exact location because street signs with names of streets and numbers aren’t a thing here.
Sure I may have been able to call him and name landmarks but I figured that would frustrate me more than anything else and opted to hail a cab passing by.
Within minutes I was in the backseat of a small, white, four-door cab with a black vinyl/ pleather-ish interior.  I told him the name of my hotel.  He seemed like he knew where he was going and we set off.  Driving, it should have taken him no more than 10-15 minutes to get there.
We get to the corner, the older Guatemalan gentlemen turned and asked me again, where was I going.
I repeat it again and even show him the address.  Again, he gives me the nod of affirmation and we continue driving.
We whizzed past the same spots I had covered while walking, so I knew that we were going in the general right direction.
About 4 blocks into the trip, the driver pulls next to another cab.  I’m not worried, I’ve seen drivers do this before-meet & greet time.
He then asks the driver where the hotel is.  The driver asks him for the street number.  He gives him the wrong information.  From the backseat I yell over his shoulder to give his friend the correct information.
He nods the familiar signal, gives my lost driver directions and we drive off again.
Now, I’m a little worried.
I told him where I needed to go before I entered the cab
He assured me that he knew where I was going prior to ushering me in
I told him where I needed to go 3 times and he kept giving me the “I understand” nod
We had to ask someone else for directions
We continued driving in what I am sure was the right direction.  He turns around again and asks me where I need to go.
At this point I’m thinking he has short-term memory loss because we had been over these details several times.
I spoke loud (he must not hear me and he has poor memory-he does look older, poor old man) and give him the location again.  I even gave him several landmarks in hopes that a light bulb would go off.  I didn’t see him visually have the “aha moment” I was hoping for.  He again gave me “the nod” and followed up with “ohhh okay” as if he didn’t understand me the first few times and he finally understood (this was as close to “aha” as I was going to get so I took it).
I had no faith in his ability to safely deliver me to my destination anytime soon.
We continued on and now, I saw things that I had NEVER seen before.  I know, we have gone too far and need to turn around.
Instead of allowing him to continue taking me on this extended tour of Coban, I told him he was going the wrong way and we needed to turn around.
Let me tell you a secret: I have no sense of direction.  I frequently take round-about ways to get to destinations because that’s the best I can do.  I was born in the city I live in and still use Google Maps to get to 80% of my destinations.  If you want to get somewhere, never ask me!  If I am in the car with you giving directions, I become mute when I am lost and feel guilty because I’ve gotten us lost.
Mounted to his window is a smart phone with a map application open.  Is this just for show? Does his phone not have data?  Does it even work? Is this his phone? Is this his cab?  Is he kidnapping me? How do I contact Liam Neeson (the star of the Taken series)-if anyone can save me he can.
We turn around. Okay (sigh).  I recognize some of this stuff, then we start heading too far south.

At this point, I am contemplating exiting his cab and walking from here (even though I don’t know where “here” is in comparison to “there”-the hotel.
I’m not freaking out completely, just alarmed that this man is driving in circles playing “hotter, too cold” as I navigate myself to the hotel based on where not to go.
I asked him to stop the cab.  We had a brief conversation.

“Do you know where you are going?”
“Did you just start driving this cab”
“Is today your first day?”
“Are you from this area?”
“Does the phone with the map application open actually work?”
“Do you seriously not know where we are going”
“How did you get this job?”

These are all questions I wanted to ask.  I didn’t ask any of them.  I asked him to call someone if he needed, but to get me to my hotel.  I again told him where I needed to go, what major landmarks were nearby and asked if he thought he could get me there.  He said yes (I didn’t believe him).
Again we start to drive past things that looked familiar.  I’m thinking, maybe I should get out while I recognize my surroundings.  But I didn’t.  We got closer and closer to the hotel,  Then… another random turn in the wrong direction.  I lightly tapped his shoulder and said, “this is the hotel”.  I was in front of a drug store about a block from the hotel.  That was good enough!
I quickly paid him and hopped out, walking the rest of way.

NOTE: I’m sure that my experience was unique to me.  I have been in several cabs that dropped me off at my destination.  I’m not saying that all cab drivers in Coban will have you lost.  This one will though.

Lesson Learned: Don’t just allow people to take you for rides!  Remind them of where you are headed and if they aren’t going to that same destination, get out!  Years will go by and you’ll be left wondering how you ended where you allowed someone to take you.

Another adventure for the books.

Update on mi vida en Coban: The keyboard was calling me

It feels like forever since I have last posted!
I am back from a lovely weekend at the plantation and have slowly crept back into my normal routine.  Well, I don’t actually have a routine per se.

I struggle with the whole structure of routines.  I like to think I’m a free spirit and a routine is symbolic of a cage.  My wings can’t spread in a cage, not all the way open!  I’m kidding, because it’s slightly embarrassing to be almost 30 and still routine-phobic and serious at the same time. […]

It feels like forever since I have last posted!
I am back from a lovely weekend at the plantation and have slowly crept back into my normal routine.  Well, I don’t actually have a routine per se.

I struggle with the whole structure of routines.  I like to think I’m a free spirit and a routine is symbolic of a cage.  My wings can’t spread in a cage, not all the way open!  I’m kidding, because it’s slightly embarrassing to be almost 30 and still routine-phobic and serious at the same time.

Here’s my routine (clears throat)
Somewhere between 8-9:00 am wake up
I haven’t been able to stop cold turkey so between 9-9:20 I admit to checking to see if I have notifications on Facebook or Instagram
By 9:30-9:40 ish, these teeth are brushed, face washed
By 10 I start working for about an hour
Somewhere around 11, I cook breakfast while listening to praise and worship music.  This doubles as my time to be reflective and meditate on what I am grateful for.
By 11:45 I’m done with my regular-shmegular breakfast which consists of 2 scrambled eggs with onion, bell pepper, red pepper and jalapeno cooked in them, a cup of hot Lipton black tea, and a piece of fruit
Back to work for about 2 hours
By 2 I’m in the gym-for the life of me, I cannot understand how people enjoy going to the gym.  I hate it!  I hate it as much as I detest folding laundry, clearing out the car it looks like I live in (don’t open the trunk), drafting progress reports, and socializing with arrogant people.

I ride the stationary spinning bike for about 20 minutes and alternate between leg and arm day and incorporate tummy/jelly roll exercises everyday.
After an hour once I’m drenched in my own salty sweat and feel like I’ve burned away some of the fat that occupies my body and refuses to vacate; I stumble back to my hotel.

After showering, grabbing more tea and a piece of fruit, I’m back to work for about 2-3 hours.
Now it’s normally about 4:45/5:00 pm.  This is when I cook my regular-schmegular dinner.  Drum roll… Sauteed vegetables, one flour tortilla, a sliced avocado, sliced cucumber, a piece of fruit, and yet another bag of Lipton Tea-how can I get an endorsement?
The rest of the evening, I’m free to work on my business plan, research, follow-up on leads for students to tutor when I return home, call friends and family members, look at Instagram and Facebook AGAIN, talk to my FREE therapist/adviser/consultant/agent/manager/listening-ear uncle and end the night talking about absolutely nothing with my
hard-working
pretending like he is exhausted but I know he is enjoying doing whatever he wants without me pouting behind him
sleeping on my side of the bed on my pillow
going to the grocery store ballin’ out on all the good stuff
turn up turn up, she’s gone-hun-bunz
-I slightly feel bad for him.  He doesn’t even pretend to be enthusiastic when talking to me anymore.
“Hi, babe”, says cheerful Ashley through a toothy smile.
“Hi”, says neutral boyfriend.
“How was your day?” Asks gleeful Ashley.
“Good”, says neutral boyfriend.
“What did you do today?” Inquires fascinated Ashley.
“Work”, barks annoyed boyfriend.
Then I go on about my day, he chimes in so that he can at least say he was engaged.
Then when I feel sorry enough for him after he cues me with yawns, I let him off the phone.
Not before my heartfelt, “I love you babe” and his dry “I love you too” response.
Reminds me of being a child, outside having the grandest time.  Mom calls you to do something.  You drag yourself in the house to figure out what she wants.  She asks a few stupid questions that you answer in your disappointed, annoyed monotone.  She looks at you standing there pitifully for a while, enjoying your misery.  Then says the magic words, “you can go”.  Your face beams with joy as you bolt out of the door before she can think of another ridiculous question or lazy mom request.
Yep that’s him.
Gotta love a committed partner!  He sticks with the routine!

After that, shower.  This is a struggle!  I only found out in the last 2 weeks that I do have hot water!  Now that it’s functioning properly.  It works too well at producing insane temperature extremes.  The water spewing from the sterling silver shower head is scalding hot.  As I turn the knob to adjust the temperature from “melt my skin off” to “bearable”, I am always defeated.  The temperature is not really controllable.  You either get scalding, or freezing.  The perfect temperate only makes guest appearances for enough time to allow myself to spin around once to saturate my entire body.  Once I’m back to the front it’s either ice cold, or burning.

Once I finish the shower olympics, I cozy into my slither of the gigantic king bed I sleep in and read my latest book while simultaneously swatting the 1-2 mosquitoes that lurk, waiting to catch me slipping.

Just thought I would post to get back into writing, it really feels like it’s been a long time!  I think that’s a sign that I’m enjoying writing.  I forgot how relieving and pleasurable it is to spend time reflecting on my thoughts and writing.  Graduate school papers, pointless homework assignments, and the countless writing tasks I had to do as a special education teacher made writing more of a chore, like folding laundry (crowd gasps)!

I’ll be back tomorrow with a post that’s more interesting!  For now I thought it was important that you knew I was still alive and hadn’t abandoned the baby that is my blog.
I hope everyone is enjoying the summer.  I know for me, this summer will be one I forever cherish.

The summer I rattled the cage, broke out yelling, “Hasta la vista baby”, while throwing up the peace sign to real life, moved to Guatemala and became a little marketing consultant, started a blog, then a website, and deciding “hell, why not.  I wanna build a brand”.

Until tomorrow!  I’m off to make another cup of tea-you are not a grown-up to me until you enjoy the flavor of tea.  Plus it makes you look sophisticated, much more so than if you drink soda, or coffee-coffee is overrated, tea is where it’s at (opening my box of $2.00 tea bags, ripping one open, dropping it into my blue ceramic mug and pouring over hot water, legs crossed above the knee like a proper lady).
#SheJumped

Exploring Zona 3 in Coban

I was a bird outside of the cage today, exploring my neighborhood and in search of a few items.  I decided the best way to acquaint myself, was to walk instead of hopping in a cab to go a few blocks. […]

I was a bird outside of the cage today, exploring my neighborhood and in search of a few items.  I decided the best way to acquaint myself was to walk instead of hopping in a cab to go a few blocks.

My first stop, the Farmacia.  I’ve explained in blog posts past, a farmacia, is equivalent to a small drugstore in America (or “The States” as non-Americans refer to the US).  A farmacia is much like an independently run Walgreens with no food, clothes, vintage lame films on DVD, “snack daddy” heaven, or freezer section.  No ever-expanding beauty aisle, and no person standing in the vicinity, with a hell of a story that forces the human being within you to give your precious change for their unique cause upon exiting the store.

A girl stood alongside me as I looked to decide if this store had what I needed, asking me for money.

I heard her whispering, “mi abuelo”.  I looked over to observe that for sure an older gentlemen was sitting on the curb looking 10 minutes from dead.  My heart strings weren’t tugged.  Hung from better describes it.  However, I didn’t think it was a wise idea to start distributing cash, in the middle of a crowded store.  I knew that I was getting the “look there’s a tourist” stare from at least 14 men, women, and children.  If I would’ve given her money, that may have opened the floodgates and I would’ve made my charitable contributions for the rest of my twenties and into my mid-thirties while standing in store.

I find that essentials like soap and women’s products are inexpensive here.  I bought both and paid Q20.  With an exchange rate of $7.40 to Q1, that breaks down to $2.70!  If you were to buy these same products at Family Dollar (the pretend discount store of urban city dwellers) your total wouldn’t have been under $5.00.

Next stop, a clothing store.  Here in Coban there’s an abundance of clothing resell shops.  Guatemala is the market for the clothing we’ve divorced like a cheating spouse in the US.  These stores are the equivalent to Value Village, Salvation Army, Goodwill, and the metal boxes on the side of busy streets where you can deposit clothing items you no longer have a need for.  In a 5-block radius I passed 6 of these stores, all independent.  The items found within these stores vary significantly in quality.  You can find anything from an old prom dress, Halloween costume, or school uniform; to old lint-covered pajamas, H&M apparel with patches of fabric missing, and recycled underwear and bras.  There’s  literally everything, prices ranging from $0.67-$16.89.  These stores are for those people who enjoy the sport of rummaging through heaps and mounds of nothing to find a gem.  If you’ve watched Hoarders, these stores are perfect for ruining a family.

Coban is 10-20 degrees cooler than Semuc Champey, although I still sweat when sitting.  While searching for a sweater to rock with everything (which consists of warm-weather clothes and a few pairs of overpriced REI fancy-scmancy pants-thank you babe-a-licious),  I kept my eye open for a pair of lounge pants.  I work from the Airbnb and see no need to wear working people attire.

I was considering buying a couple of over-sized, men’s t-shirts because they looked so comfortable and cost $0.67.  The Nike sign on both was backward but who cares.  I wasn’t trying to take photos in them or make a fashion statement.   I am my most productive when I feel like I am at home and free to stop a task whenever I want.  My boss would be so proud!  I came with a backpack that’s pretty heavy and full; I would hate to pop a zipper for a couple of $0.67 shirts that I didn’t need.  The backward Nike sign was telling me, “Don’t Do It”.  I must say that traveling with this backpack keeps me sane.  I could buy piles of shiny, comfortable looking randomness.  The backpack reminds me of what’s essential, and what to leave for someone else to waste money on (i.e. an awesome mini keyboard for $1.25 or these red ribbon-laced tap shoes that I tried on but don’t fit).

Many of these stores have neon signs on the outside advertising their lowest price.  Okay, so they aren’t neon signs as we know them.  Neon poster board paper, drawn on with black permanent marker and if the designer was fancy, thick bubble lettering.  The sign’s hung from string so it twirls in the wind.
I’m not complaining AT ALL, the signs catch my attention.  Consumers get a clear understanding of how cheap, cheap is and find the perfect spot to fit their budget.  Think about it. If items sold are cheaper than $1, construction paper is the perfect advertising material; gotta balance the budget!

As a tourist, I hope to purchase local products made of local textile.

Unfortunately, because I am in an area of the city that has a high population of locals, typical clothing isn’t what is appealing to them.  When I asked for a place to find said sweater, again and again people kept directing me to these resell shops to get “beautiful, high quality American clothes”.  Interesting that we each want what the other person has an abundance of but is sick of looking at.

I was unable to find a sweater because I didn’t want to settle for an American thrift store (and not a cool vintage thrift store) find.

I walked to 7 stores, 7!  I told you I sweat sitting, so I feel like it is raining underneath this grey dress.  I haven’t managed to find what I was looking for. What I did find was a scarf to cloak around my neck.  My amazing friend Ashley Lee (yes, I was born at a time when Ashley was the name to give your daughter apparently. Thanks dad) taught me that if you have a warm scarf, the rest of your body isn’t so cold after all because your core is warm.  Sounds stupid? I know, until I started trying it!  Thanks Ash.  If anyone ever tells you you’re worthless, you’re a genius to me!

And the hunt for a warm sweater continues, for another day.

It’s funny being myself, and watching myself evolve.  I am moving confidently, navigating without wandering into the outlands (hint: Lion King!  Simba wasn’t allowed to wander in the dark places), asking questions of people, speaking up, and smiling.  I’m famous for looking upset, pissed, mad, hurt, disappointed and lots of other unpleasant adjectives.  I looked at my reflection in a storefront window, and noticed I was smiling!

Funny how we grow when other people aren’t trying to throw their own brands of Miracle-Grow in our soil!

#She Jumped

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Coban Livin’

After convincing my boss, and myself that Coban was the best place to be, I moved!
I have been here in Coban for 6 days.  
Coban in completely different from Semuc Champey.  There are vast differences in the weather, accessibility to things, population, waste management system (aka garbage collection), and I see far fewer random, sickly dogs roaming around[…]

After convincing my boss, and myself that Coban was the best place to be, I moved!

I have been here in Coban for 6 days.  

Coban is completely different from Semuc Champey.  There are vast differences in the weather, accessibility to things, population, waste management system (aka garbage collection), and I see far fewer random, sickly dogs roaming around.  

Coban and Semuc Champey are like Milwaukee and Chicago.  

Milwaukee has an abundance of everything you need, tons of culture and things to explore. Milwaukee boasts streets that are easy to navigate and full of life.  Charming boutiques and businesses with inviting storefronts.  Milwaukee has character, and soul, similar to Coban. Then you have Semuc Champey/Chicago.  It is a beautiful place to visit.  You go and take some amazing pictures, be the envy of everyone who follows you on social media.  Upload pictures and get tons of likes, #goals, and the yellow emoji with the heart-shaped eyes.  It’s one of those “you must see” places.  But once you leave the heart of the place, you’ve seen it all.  Yeah, that’s Chicago.  

I am here in Coban in a very different way than my presence in Semuc Champey.  In Semuc I ate, slept, showered, ate again, drank, breathed, saw, and slept Greengos Hotel.  Every particle of food or drink that touched my lips was from Greengos Hotel (well except that one time when I ate at a restaurant apparently staffed and ran by a pack of stray dogs).  I kid you not when I tell you that there is absolutely NOWHERE ELSE TO GO- aside from the National Park or another hotel (but why would I visit competitors who already know I’m the weird-looking foreigner who works at the Israeli hotel?).  I enjoyed the peace and tranquility for the first couple of weeks.  It gave me a chance to actually hear myself think, process what was going on with me, and reflect on how I ended the school year.  I was at peace and decompressing.  Although I met customers while working, I was not focused on really building or nurturing any sort of relationships.  I had “small talkish” conversations with people and when they left, I smiled, wished them well and collected their room key.  I was also working crazed woman hours so I was probably tired ALL THE TIME and didn’t even really notice because tired became my normal state of being.  

It was great, at first.  I didn’t have to cook any meals (I wasn’t allowed to because the kitchen is off-limits to those who are not chefs or kitchen staff).  I didn’t have to do any of my own laundry- the laundering staff took care of those needs (in my British-princess accent).  I didn’t spend any money, 3 meals and housing were a part of the scheme to get me here (just kidding).  And I could watch the daily drama of Greengos Hotel: When the boss is away the staff will play unfold before my very eyes.  

What was great turned into old.  I realized that I had 2 breakfast, lunch and dinner options (the same 2) and that those options were being exhausted and recycled every two days.  I started to lose weight.  Let’s pause.  Don’t get me wrong, this was AMAZING!  I was finally doing what I couldn’t pay to do while competing in 2 rounds of The Biggest Loser at work.  I lost weight because I was over the idea- not the idea, the reality of eating fried rice, lo mein or hummus and pita for lunch and dinner everyday.  I started just asking for fruits, salads and fresh veggies.  Oh and french fries.  Bowls and bowls of homemade french fries.   You may be thinking, “you are in Guatemala, you aren’t eating Guatemalan food?”  Nope, not-a-none.  The menu is indiscriminately, overwhelmingly stacked with Israeli food.  And fried rice.  And lo mein.  And pasta.  Red or white sauce.  And pita with nutella in several different variations that boast names that start with the prefix hummus- and end with the suffix -ella; although nutella + pita don’t equal hummus or -ella (𝅘𝅥𝅮 -ella, -ella, eh, eh, eh.  Under my um-brella, -ella -ella 𝅘𝅥𝅮)- tidbit about my myself, I heart Rihanna (heart means love; doesn’t everyone talk in emoji’s now?!).  

Now Coban Ashley.  

Ashley 2.0, cooks all of her own meals, or takes herself to dinner (only once so far).  Share (2)Ashley 2.0 still doesn’t wash her clothes- I pay people to do that.  Well the truth is, there is a laundry service about 87 steps from the Airbnb and it’s only right that I support the local economy by allowing them to provide me with their services (eyelash bat and smile).  I still have my room cleaned for me- because it is a service provided and I wouldn’t dare deprive someone of doing their job.  Ashley 2.0 gets excited about normal tasks like going grocery shopping, buying feminine hygiene products, and purchasing socks & underwear- there is no such thing as too many socks and underwear.  

Ashley 2.0 is excited to walk out of the front gate to see… people!  Actual living, breathing, people!  I love trees, dirt, rocks, smoke rising into the clouds, stray itchy pregnant dogs with their adorable big-eyed, hungry looking pups.  But not more than I love the company of HUMAN BEINGS!  Just to see people, even if they do look at me like I’m an alien.  Or a missionary coming to tell them about the goodness of God and his precious son, sweet baby Jesus and turn them from their wicked indigenous farmer ways.  

It’s nice to have a place to find basic essentials and watch street festival dancers twirl to spanish gospel music- but not the American-missionary kind.

I am enjoying Coban.  

1 thing I started to realize yesterday, was how much I miss my daily episodes of As the world turns ever so slowly in the desolate jungle.  I had started to develop friendships with the local staff.  I no longer have them to encourage me, invite me to the women-staff sleepovers in their dorm, invite me to eat lunch with them, teach me Guatemalan slang, ask me how to say things in english, and watch me so they could pick up on my weird American mannerisms-like squirting on loads of OFF spray and hours later scratch at my host of mosquito bites because that junk DOESN’T EVEN WORK!

It can get lonely here.  I don’t see the same people on a day-to-day basis and when I do come into contact with people they are

  1. Astound to see me and don’t speak, just whisper to each other and point in my direction
  2. Try to sell me random knickknacks
  3. Ask me to change
  4. Walk passed me quickly, then turn around and watch me as I turn my head to watch them, watching me.

One thing is for sure.  Black people in Coban and Semuc Champey are all aliens, every single one of us, singular me.

Speaking of aliens, I was in the mall with my boss when I first arrived here.  He was in the bank and my stomach was slappin’ my back (translation: I was pretty hungry).  I found the food court and got Dominos (yes America takes over everything, everywhere we go and there is a Dominos, Subway, Pizza Hut and McDonald’s in this mall).  So I order and am now outside of the bank on a bench DEVOURING this pizza.  I don’t know what I look like, but I imagine I look pretty darn hungry.  A Guatemalan woman walks past me.  Then she doubles back and stares at me.  I am honestly used to this by now.  I just smile and wave, like a zoo animal, eating pizza.  I’m sure she doesn’t see brown-skinned people too often because since I’ve been here neither have I.  She leaves her cart, with her purse in it and comes to sit near me.  In Spanish she starts talking to me.  But all of my attention is devoted to this personal pan cheese pizza with bread-sticks and marinara sauce. What I heard her say was, “where did you get the pizza from?”  I’m a pretty nice person I would say overall, so I respond, “Dominoes”.  She says, “Dominoes is in what country?”- So her initial question was where are you from.  At this point I put the pizza down because clearly I cannot listen, comprehend, translate in my mind and properly answer while inhaling the scent of marinara and demolishing a pizza.  I have a conversation with her- well really I am listening to her talk to me about I don’t know what.  I was still very hungry and fully fixated on the pizza in the box next to me that was getting cooler and cooler by the minute.  It wasn’t all bad, I was nodding, appearing to be a very good active listener in true teacher fashion.  

To sum it up, Ashley 2.0 is enjoying living among more than 40 people.  While I may not be talking to any of these people, seeing them around is enough for me.  

Until next time.  I’m gonna go cook one of those meals I was telling you about.  Sautéed veggies, avocado, sliced cucumbers and a piece of fruit.  I still am not eating ‘Guatemalan’ food.  Seeing as how I didn’t evolve into a Guatemalan, I am unsure of their daily cuisine and am sure I don’t have any of the ingredients to even pretend to dabble.  It’s funny how when I had a limited choice of food options I complained.  Now that I can eat whatever I want, I essentially eat THE SAME THINGS EVERY DAY.  But it’s the principle, principle I tell you!

Until next time- says Roger the Rabbit

Get it?  I eat fruits and veggies (every single waking day) so I’m calling myself a rabbit!  Who needs friends to tell you jokes when you’re just naturally born funny, and your ability to gauge what is funny decreases everyday that you don’t actually interact with the people who stare at you like you’re about to do a magic trick or steal their baby!

How I ended up here

I’m already fielding requests on things to blog about.  Well there aren’t really many requests, only 3; I could be reading about how much people hate what I have to say (the online equivalent on booing someone off of the stage ⎯ oh the beauty of deleting comments and blocking people who don’t think I’m amazing)!

I feel so important!  This makes my brown, full cheeks warm ⎯ this has got to be what white people’s cheeks feel like before their faces become flushed with a rose-colored tint.  

Why Guatemala?

This winter, mid-December through late January, my boyfriend and I traveled to Belize & Guatemala.  It was my turn to pay for plane tickets for our annual winter vacation.  I had originally planned to buy tickets to El Salvador.  In true slacker fashion I waited until the last minute to purchase the tickets ⎯ but of course I lied about it so that sir-work-alot (my hun-bunz) wouldn’t be worried.  When I finally sat down to buy the ticket, about 4 weeks in advance, the ticket price had increased at least $200 per ticket.  While we have made a habit of traveling overseas for at least 3 weeks annually, I’m by no means a baller⎯ I think it’s fair to say that I  bay ball within my salary range.  

That made El Salvador, not an option,

But I had to buy tickets to get somewhere

I used trusty Google Flights⎯ oh how I love thee Google Flights (fairy godmother wand waving sound effects inserted here)

I hit “Feeling lucky” and vuala ⎯ Belize

In my price range ⎯ yep

Hot weather ⎯ yep

American dollar greater than the currency of the country ⎯ only double, but it’ll do

Booked that evening

Being out of the country a little over 4 weeks meant we could travel to a neighboring country or two; Guatemala is Belize’s neighbor (just in case you needed a reminder), and the original plan was to travel to El Salvador as well.  

I did a little research about El Saldavor online and saw that it has low rankings on many “Central American Countries to visit” lists.  I recall reading about how dangerous it was.  In my experience traveling, the people writing these warnings are white.  White people are the same people who get drunk in foreign countries and walk blocks, alone back to their hotel.  A white man I met while traveling visited a country to work, got drunk at the hostel he was supposed to be working at, got naked in front of all the tourists & was fired, then met a local man on the road while hitch-hiking and they were officially dating.  I mean serious dating: tongue kissing, having sex, letting the local guy hold his wallet.  Full on in love ⎯ if we’re dating and you’re holding my wallet while I’m not around, that’s it.  You’re the one ⎯ cash me out! Needless to say I think their judgement of safe is a little skewed.

Reading that it was “dangerous” meant to me that there wouldn’t be tons of tourists, and it should be cheap because nobody is in a rush to get there.

We don’t do much pre-planning for a trip.  The extent of our planning is going to Barnes & Noble, sir-work-a lot scouring the travel section, in search of what he deems as the most suitable travel book (which I think is determined by the vibrancy of the pictures).  While I wander throughout the store being useless, picking up random stuff for sir-work-a lot to tell me to put back.

⎯ I am obsessed with books! So are lots of other women. If your woman isn’t reading, buy her a book. Put her on (translation: introduce her to something new)

Fast forward a month or so from the night of the ticket purchase, we were now in Flores, Guatemala.  A tiny island with charm, old beautiful buildings and tiny cobblestone roads.  While staying at a hostel, we my Barnes & Noble-travel-guide-trip-adviser (that’s the new description of my boyfriend, he’s not sir-work-a lot right now because we are on vacation) had decided that we needed to go to Semuc Champey to swim in the pools and do the cave tour.  Only thing left, is to find a place to sleep while there.  The young handsome, stoned travel agent at the hostel recommended for us to go to Greengo’s Hotel and ranted about how amazing it was.  I admit, he was pretty convincing to be stoned ⎯ although I wasn’t sure if I should’ve believed him given his state of coherence while working.

In the morning, we rode a shuttle 7 hours to Lanquin, and another vehicle 40 minutes to Greengo’s Hotel.  The trip to Greengo’s is completely sketchy.  You are ushered into the back of a huge Toyota diesel engine truck.  Hoisted in by a small climbing rope.  You can see nothing around you because when you arrive it is guaranteed to be evening, and there is a huge tarp-like material covering the sides of the truck bed where you are seated.  No one says it’s going to take 40 min!  You make several stops along the way, wondering if someone is going to just hop in and rob every one of their smelly oversized backpacks, passports, and travel guides ⎯ please not our travel guide.  Had the charismatic stoner/travel agent advised us that the trip to the hotel was an additional 40 minutes in the dark with music blaring to further disorient you, Greengo’s may not have been our point of destination.  

Once we finally made it to the concrete-walled compound that resembled a prison from the outside, we were greeted by a tall, tanned, commanding Israeli with a raspy tone, dark eyes, gorgeous lashes and a smile.  What’s commanding about him?  His voice.  It’s heavy and thick.  He speaks Hebrew and botches English and Spanish.  Even given his disfluency, by his tone alone you listen.  While he often gets the suffixes mixed up, uses words that don’t quite do the job, and uses lots of gestures in a weird sign language substitution sort of way,  his tone boasts such confidence.  To the point where you don’t even correct him.  You sort of just take a few extra seconds to process what he is saying, correct it yourself and respond before he notices you’re taking a long time.  Plus he’s gorgeous, and smiles bright so you’re distracted all the while.  The reservation we thought we made with the stoner agent, was not a reservation at all!  Neither or our names was on the “the list”.  Reminded me of my days as a young whippersnapper.  Standing in long lines at the club with my friend.   Waiting for that one security guard she knows,  to flex his genie-grant-me-a-wish muscles by walking past & acknowledging her presence.  Upon acknowledgement she could then lift her chin 2 inches higher and utter the coveted “Excuse me” as we were whisked past the crowd; I was just happy to not have to wait.  The price paid for infinite skipping privileges, I dunno and wasn’t worried about.  I wasn’t paying it.  I was simply the beneficiary (if you’re reading this, don’t be mad, I love you dude).

Commander Israeli assured us that we would be fine and he would find us the best room available.  By this point, I could see that my hun-bunz was looking…. not good.  I knew that we may be here for a while so that he could rest up ⎯ he enjoys planning full vacations (translation: going to several places, enjoying a wide range of experiences, drinking tap water from the sink, eating street food) but it was obvious that it was time to let his body reset.

As a couple, when one is ill on vacation, initially the healthy person spends a lot of time at the bedside of the sick and shut in.  Day 2, you spend time within the vicinity of the contaminated specimen.  Day 3, you spend time alone, wandering and checking in with the rehabilitating kill-joy from time to time.  Day 4, every man for himself.  At that point in my evolution to being shameless I was pretty lame.  My version of day 3 was sitting in the lobby, alone.  Well at least I was productive, working on my business plan!  Word spread that the black girl in the common area was from America and spoke English.  Commando Israeli hit a gold mine and wasted no time before asking me how to say things or properly phrase sentences in English.  It was no burden to me.  I’m American, of course I thought I was helping him in true American dominance style.  

Between translating, proofreading, drafting and editing I wandered.  While wandering around the grounds ⎯ lame Ashley version of an excursion, I noticed a sign soliciting volunteers.

Want to have a unique travel experience on your journey?

-yea, sounds interesting

Like what we have created here?

-why yes I do

We are looking for like-minded people to join our team.  See the manager for details.

Seed, planted.

I walk up to gorgeous Commando Israeli-Jew

“I see you’re looking for people to work here?”

-“Yes are you interested?”

“What would I be doing?”

-“You tell me.  Think about it, come back and make me an offer”

I darted off to the room to tell 80% (I’m talking about my hun-bunz again ⎯ I hope you’re following, he WAS sick, now he is about 80% better, so for the remainder of this post, he will be referred to as 80%).

I explained in my website intro, that pre-shameless Ashley asked for permission to make decisions, this was a prime example.  I told him about my sign reading and inquiry, and asked him for help in negotiating my rate and terms.

I had my offer, and ran back to the reception area to seal the deal.

“I’ve come up with an offer”

-“Okay”

“I want to come back and work from mid June late August.  I want 3 days of vacation every other weekend, food and a room.  A private room, not a shared dorm-style room and a salary”.

-“Okay”. ⎯  the tone of his “okay” changed from agreeable to a slow, “what you are doing to ask for next” okay.

“I clear the lump of fear from my throat, count down from 10 in my head…

⎯  this is what I do in preparation of speaking up for myself.  I  was taught the dramatic pause strategy while working in collections.  A customer makes a payment arrangement offer, you say, “ok, let me see what I can do it, I’m going to place you on a brief hold while I crunch some numbers”.  Knowing wholeheartedly that you are going to say yes, or increase the payment amount until they start to sound like they are desperate and have nothing else to offer. ⎯ Well it’s sort of the same.  I pause, creating the illusion that what I am about to say is well thought out.  Unless that’s just what I think and the other person is just wondering if I have some sort of processing delay.

… “and I want $1000”.  Before you rush to say, “that’s nothing”, I was a year-round teacher at the time.  Which means that I continue to get paid through the end of July.  Which means that anything I make while living and eating for free in another country is in addition to my teacher salary.

-“Okay. Sounds good. Take my contact information and I will see you this summer.”

That was too easy. I started to regret my little offer and wanted to say, “well how about $3000?” but decided not to push my luck, and to polish up my negotiation skills for next time.  Maybe at Barnes & Noble with my boyfriend.  

We shook hands.  I left the hotel with a job and a verbal agreement.  He’s a Jew, they don’t lie!  

You entrust your life to a man I had known for 4 days?

Yep.  People have babies with men they’ve known 30 days so if I use their standard, my timing is great.

There you have it.

Now you know how I got here.

If you thought this was going to be step-by-step guide on how to get a job abroad, sorry.  When I think about, the way I ended up here is round-about and completely unplanned.  We almost didn’t even come to Guatemala.  Almost didn’t want to stay at the hostel in Flores with liar-stoner-agent.  Almost left Greengo’s because we had no reservation and we felt like he was milking every cent out of us at check-in.  Planned to only stay there for 2 nights initially, which would’ve prevented me from being able to spend time with the owner.  And if God wouldn’t have sprinkled some courage and bravery dust on insecure little me, I wouldn’t have even inquired about the flyer.  Coincidences some may say, it’s an appointment to me.  I’m supposed to be here right now.  Everything fell into place to make this happen.  

Even when I tell people what it cost for a plane ticket here, they say it’s the cheapest they’ve ever heard of and I’m lucky to have got the deal I did.  You can barely fly across the US and back for $300.  

I am grateful.  

Do I have all the answers, No.  Do I know what I am going to do when I get back to the US?  Rough idea, but a definite plan, No.  How am I going to make money?  I have a nest and a small M & M-sized egg in it.  Remember, I’m getting paid my salary from my previous job through July, making a small amount of money and living for free.  Trust that if I’m not worried about money, you shouldn’t be either.  I’ve just got to make sure Sallie Mae is paid (remember I’m a millennial, many of us got roped into the “college at all costs or die” scheme), the rest will just fall into place.  But if you want to just bless me, I can surely give you my routing and account number.  Wells Fargo would appreciate more deposits from me ( I told you I watch my account religiously).  

In all sincerity, I worry not about how I will maintain.  I am college educating, can speak another language, have extensive experience in many areas, a teaching certification, a support system, the best man a woman can ask for, and faith that I will be alright.  Some call it stupid and irresponsible.  But so is:

  1. Selling you food stamps and you know you have children to feed
  2. Spending $300 on shoes and you don’t have rent money
  3. Cashing your check at a payday loan store
  4. Going to McDonald’s ordering a 20 piece nugget, #1, 2 apple pies, a caramel frappe and a sweet tea or diet soda thinking that those drink options are healthiest as compared to a soda.
  5. Shopping at an online boutique with the idea that you will be only person with that outfit as if the wholesalers only work with one person exclusively
  6. Going on Maury to take a DNA test knowing you let a few too many people “shoot the club up”
  7. Purchasing bundles while you bald from hair neglect

Basically, I made the decision that was best for me and am trusting that God will give me direction and lead me on a path of following my heart.  

Please don’t read my post and think that I am amazing, or doing something you can’t also do.  While you may not be able to leave the country for 11 weeks, you can reflect, meditate, sit in your own stillness and determine how you feel.  Feel like you aren’t fulfilling your destiny?  You have to be willing to do something about it.  I jumped because I’m a millennial.  We have a complex of wanting to live out lives where we are happy working, loving someone with the same passion as evoked while watching the Notebook and making our dreams a reality ⎯ yea, “crazy kids” we are.

I want different.  Don’t want to go to work, get hit with chairs, break up fights, be verbally assaulted, do mountains of paperwork, sit in PD sessions daydreaming about what I would love to be doing instead, wake up and do it again.  

Jump

or at least leap off the ground a little. A tippy-toe rise?  Do something that moves you closer to where you want to be