Me, Myself and I Feed

Nine years in Nicaragua

It’s just a few days shy of my nine year anniversary of moving to Nicaragua. My decision to move her shocked many people, but now many are inquiring about doing the same. I had a three year plan, but fast forward nine years and I am committed here for a significant portion of my future. I developed a beautiful group of friends, a business that I always dreamed of with a great staff who always have my back, a house (rented) at the edge of the forest and just one kilometer to my shop, which I can walk to along the beach, and an overall happy existence. 

Today someone mentioned how nice it is that there are many women entrepreneurs here and what a nice resource that must be for me. I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but we do have a large group of strong, intelligent, ambitious women who have left their mark on this town. Our successes feed each other, but we sometimes take it for granted and do not always take the time to acknowledge it because everything feels so normal in that it is no big deal. My friends have started an all girls surf camp, yoga studio, school, restaurants, property management companies, horseback ranch and B&B, hotels, gift shops, clothing lines and shops, consulting services....and most started these businesses on their own as opposed to as a couple. It’s quite empowering when I think about it.

One of the strange, positive effects this has had is that living in Nicaragua, I am closer geographically to my sister and I see her far more often than I did when I lived in the US. I have been blessed with a bookstore operation that that allows me to travel to the US several times a year to purchase books and hang out with my mom, sister and her family in a gorgeous little beach town in close vicinity to Goodwills and thrift stores where I can restock while hanging out with my family. I have been able to have a close relationship with my niece and nephews because of this, something that would have been much more difficult if I still lived in the US. I build the cost of the airfare and car rental into the price of the books, so most of the time it is a greatly subsidized vacation affording more opportunities to buy pretty clothes and sandals of which I have xx number of pairs, a secret because I do not even know how many pairs I have. When I moved here, I loathed flip flops. I was a Teva girl. Now I can walk up my insane hill in flip flops. I hike through the jungle in flip flops. Columbias and Sanuks, mostly.

It is a small country and I can usually go to any other town or city and run into someone I know or someone who knows of me. It’s all one big blur at times. Sometimes we complain about living in the fishbowl, especially as foreigners who stand out, but in the end we all choose to live here and this fishbowl gives us a sense of community that many of us did not feel and missed when we were living in larger areas and suburbs where we are disconnected from our neighbors. 

I do not remember the person I was when I moved here. I am freer. My creativity has moved into a higher dimension. I am happy. I enjoy my life. Although I don’t have enough time in the day to do everything that I want to do, I have enough time to do everything I need to do. I meditate (but not as much as I should lately). I make altars. I pray. I sing (though still not ready for a solo). I started to learn the guitar and I may get back at it in October. My wardrobe consists of funky skirts, dresses and shorts topped with tank tops. I have three more cats than when I arrived and learned to accept it and not be afraid of being called the crazy cat lady. I am more accepting of my faults, idiosyncrasies, and other shadow elements and I am less judgmental in my view of the rest of the world. The hardest lesson to learn was resistance is futile, go with the flow. The first few years I did not flow. It was hard to flow when I had to chase the Parmalat (milk) truck around town because Vladimir the driver would not stop at my store. I had to physically block the truck on more than one occasion to prevent him from refusing to sell me milk. Friends would call with milk truck sightings. “Block him!” I shouted as I jumped on my bike to find the elusive milk truck. Mind you, I purchase more than most of the little pulparias. Supply and demand are on two different tracks and resistance is futile.

For a year I would wait in line at the bank for no less than an hour to get change, only to here the infamous words, “No hay.” I stopped at a casino in Managua once to get a bucket of change because there was the great one cordoba shortage. We spent an hour each day begging our friends to count all the loose change on their dresser so we could make a bank. 

Then there were the roads. And the police points and the fines for imaginary infractions and tales of aduana (customs) and hassle after hassle. The robberies and the tens of thousands of dollars of stuff that has disappeared over the years here...it’s not cheap or easy to replace any of those things, either. There were serious incidents of violence, the second so brutal that I wanted to leave, but in the end I knew that it was not the fault of the country and I understand the lesson behind it, much of which connected me to my spiritual nature in a way that I could never have foreseen. Detachment from material goods is key, as is embracing life and going with the flow with full faith that the universe is taking me in the right direction. In the end, I feel happier, safer, and freer here than I do elsewhere. I have so much gratitude that I was able to create this life, and grateful for all of the help I have had along the way. 

Nine years with many more to come.


El Gato Negro - The New Menu

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I may have set a world record for longest menu, which probably doesn't surprise anyone that knows me.  There are 12 pages of food, several pages of superfoods and health information, the FAQ and several pages of random book notes before getting to my list of favorite books.   Each time I edit it, I add pages. 

You can see my 36-page menu in PDF format here:   Download El gato negro menu

The menu goes into effect Wednesday morning.

You can see photos pf my store here, though it hasn't been updated for a while.  We have a Facebook page thanks to Rob, but it's his domainand he is bad about putting up photos.

The menu covers are homemade, abstract collage creations.  This batch was not quite as interesting as the last menus, which included the sex menu cover: a collage of a brochure from The Vagina Monologues and The Dysfunctional Family Doll Set with cross-drssing dad, S&M mom and the psychiatrist in the pink rabbit suit.  I have a twisted sense of humor.

Despite the uniqueness and intricacy of some of the menu covers, most people don't notice them.  Or they notice them they are falling apart becasue we haven't updated the menu and prices in more than two years and  it's costing us money on any item with blueberries.  But in good condition many people never noticed that they were holding the sex menu cover, Playboy centerfold and all.  

I am also working on coffee bag labels and because I have to be different, I am using several different cats and mixing them with vibrant labels, of which there will be almost limitless color combinations. On top of the labels. I am creating 5x6 postcards and two sizes of stickers.  I like that I can sell my art in my store!

Off to the printers tomorrow.  Here are a few more of my images:

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Why I hate TripAdvisor

Some of my friends are obsessed with their TripAdvisor rankings, believing it will make or break their business.  I suppose it is more important in the hotel rankings as opposed to restaurants.  Anyone looking at the Top Ten restaurants in San Juan del Sur can see that there is something funny with the algorithm, especially when a sleazy sports bar with prostitutes standing in front of the place occasionally gets a number two or three ranking.  Restaurants that are closed and have been for some time occasionally appear on the list. 

I once went nine months in between reading the reviews, and then another six after that.  It doesn't matter what my rank is (and it is abysmally low given my sales and the generous accolades from my customers and in comparison to some of the other places reviewed)  - el gato negro is still the most popular spot in town in the morning and the vast majority of my customers are returning guests, sometimes even returning two hours later for lunch.  It can't be perfect all the time and when it isn't, there is a good chance somebody will bitch about it on TripAdvisor.   I have also learned that spurning the sexual advances of an insecure man can induce the spurned into making false claims on TripAdvisor in a pathetic attempt to discredit the business (hint to the spurned: you need a better synonym for your favorite term).  Some businesses offer free lunch or beer for a good review.  Some business owners have faked reviews and trashed their competitors, but at least there was karmic blowback.

Rob has recently had the unfortunate luck to be appointed by me as the person in charge of responding to bad Trip Advisor reviews.  I prefer to put my head in the sand and have never responded to any of the complaints.  Some say that is bad business, but I have a hard time dealing with petty whiners - and I am long-winded to boot.  And sometimes mean.  This is my first and only response to a recent negative review.  We'll see if it makes it past the censors at TripAdvisor.

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This is one of the owners of el gato negro - the sometimes sarcastic, often long-winded at the keyboard one.

You claim to have been traveling all day and couldn’t wait to get to El Gato Negro.  This brings you to our store near closing time at 3 p.m.  You then state that our prices are higher than the local area, but your post implies that you had just arrived in town.  You should work for a travel guide publisher because you managed to travel all day and instantaneously knew the selection and prices of all of the other restaurants upon your arrival, much like the “writers” of guidebooks of all countries across this cut-and-paste world.  Can you tell me what the average price of a Smoked Turkey Club with fresh, thick cut, locally smoked bacon, garlic cream cheese, provolone cheese, avocado, tomato, cucumber and onion on an imported NY style bagel served with organic field greens and a blueberry smoothie with maca, bee pollen, chia, coconut oil, raw cacao and goji berries costs you at other restaurants?  Or smoked salmon from Chile (which is healthier than salmon fished from the Northern Hemisphere) on a cream cheese bagel with capers?  No, because that quality of sandwich and smoothie does not exist at other restaurants in town or Nicaragua.  How many coffeehouses have you been visited where they roasted the coffee on premise?  Where do you suggest one find a better deal for coffee in San Juan del Sur, since you obviously know so much about the local offerings having just arrived into town.  Your TripAdvisor reviews under this name consist of solely of El Gato Negro.  If there are better places for a better value, why haven’t you listed them?  Oh, you probably just need a little time to digest the overwhelming beauty of the cheap advertisements for beer, rum and cigarettes illuminated by white fluorescent bulbs at the the fine dining establishments, 90 percent of which have a big bottle of MSG next to the stove.  I anxiously await your review of the 70 cordoba gallo pinto breakfast at the mercado, especially if you eat from the comedor famous for its toxic effects to your digestive tract, specifically the the lower tract.  But you in your infinite wisdom, you already now which one I am talking about.   

 You claim that my employees were talking rudely about you behind your back and they did not know that you spoke Spanish.  I don't believe your claims.  You have another agenda for saying that.  Whatever transpired was filtered by your attitude at that point, but my employees were not trashing you.  They would certainly have waited until you had left the store before engaging in that kind of gossip.  They have manners.

 And might I ask why you think you can walk into a BOOKSTORE (or any business) and recharge your phone and computer without at least inquiring about it first?  You state that my staff was rude, but walking into a business and acting as it is a fundamental human right that a BOOKSTORE provide you with a free charge for your phone seems rude to me.  Why is it my duty to recharge your phone or laptop?  One of the reasons for the charge is that we do not want people sitting for hours nursing a coffee, staring into a not-so-smart phone like a zombie while using our internet, which is not advertised as “Free wifi”.  We graciously allow clients to use our PRIVATE internet connection for free.  We are not an internet cafe, nor are we a recharging station.  (By the way, it costs $3 to recharge a phone at one major US airport.)  We suggest that references to wifi signal be relegated to reviews of Internet cafes should such a category exist.  We would prefer people spend their time finding the right book to balance the negative vibrational energy of their electronic addictions or a book on survivalism, the Kindle version of which will be useless in a power outage.

Some people complain because we charge $1 to charge a laptop or iPhone (which uses more electricity than you think and in a country with the highest electricity rates in the Americas), but we do not want to cultivate a culture of entitlement.  Your life is not going to end if you cannot check your email and Facebook account 80 times a day.  We do not feel any desire to help you live in the electronic world while you sit in a real BOOKSTORE with a huge collection of books you will find nowhere else in the world.  Complaining about your battery recharging experience in a bookstore/coffeehouse will not elicit any sympathy from us.   

We always have a manager on duty; you could have asked to speak to one.  Getting your point across would be easy since you speak Spanish, right?  Sometimes our bills are confusing because the menu price includes the 15 percent sales tax created by the vultures at the IMF and World Bank, but the lengthy complexities of the Nicaraguan accounting system require us to back it out of the price and rewrite it as the tax on the official factura, all of which takes time.  Again, you could have spoken to someone if you had a problem before whining here.

The petting zoo is not a petting zoo and it is not ours.  It belongs to our landlady.  She has chicken and geese, which she raises for eggs.  Geese keep down the insect population, especially tics.  I am not a fan of the pigs, but since I love to eat bacon and try to promote a self-sustainable lifestyle, who am I to criticize her anmimals?  The kids love them and the geese are super friendly - and they are fenced in.  Finally.  

You state that you are never coming back.  That is fine.  We do not want the energy from clients who forget that they are in the Third World, regardless of the cool and funky aesthetics of the interior of our store.  We do not want clients to treat our establishment as an internet cafe or a battery charging station.  We do not want clients who demand a Four Seasons experience on a taco cart budget.  There is a reason that TripAdvisor is known as WhineAdvisor amongst hospitality business owners around the world.  You have reinforced this stereotype.  You have taken it upon yourself to ANONYMOUSLY write ONE review of ALL the places that you have visited in your travels because your experience in a COFFEEHOUSE/BOOKSTORE IN THE THIRD WORLD wasn’t perfect.  Perhaps it wasn’t the second coffee that was bad; maybe it is something inside you.

The worst thing you can do is try to compare ANYTHING that happens in Nicaragua to your experience in the US.  Lead floats here.  Just above that on the list of Things Not To Do in Nicaragua is to judge a place by your first impression, especially if you plan on sticking around in place with a limited selection of food.  If I was angry and wine-typed reviews of my favorite restaurants in San Juan del Sur on TripAdvisor, I could HONESTLY write, “Steak so tough I needed the Heimlich Maneuver”  and “Bit into bread crust and swallowed part of my molar” and “Last bite of chicken was raw and so is my esophagus” amongst other literary gems.  Sometimes I get bad service in my own restaurant and I have given up trying to understand why.  We all have bad days, especially at the end of our summer season.  It is hot, dusty, humid and uncomfortable, making everyone grouchy.  Let’s face it, my zinc roof store is  hot in the afternoon and the girls are anxious to get home.  The aren’t perfect and I cannot complain because I would only be a hypocrite.   

I am sorry that there is so little to be grateful for in your life that you felt the need complain vociferously and publicy about your coffeehouse experience.  Remember, you are the creator of your experiences.  Peace to you, wherever your travels take you.


KAT Rant: The Zombie Apocalypse (smart phones for stupid people)

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Warning: Personal rant in case you missed the title.

I abhor smart phones.  The term smart phone is an oxymoron - just look at the people using them.   I see them every day in my coffeehouse - dozens of people at any given time staring into a phone, tablet or laptop, totally oblivious to everything around them and to anything important, such as Fukushima, the Louisiana sinkhole, the ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, impending economic collapse, the global police state, and the impending US-led attack (at the behest of Israel) against Syria and Iran (simultaneously).  Sometimes I blame it on fluoride and anti-depressants, but at this moment in time that has me wanting to throw my cellphone into the garbage (not before taking my machete to it), I blame it on Facebook and smart phones for stupid people.

 

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I don’t care what you ate for dinner or how many beers you consumed the night before or how you got ripped off by your coke dealer at the ATM at 2 o’clock in the morning.  I don’t want to hear the details about the cute bartender (with herpes, stupid girl) that you shagged the night before or that your hot, underaged Nicaraguan girlfriend stole your wallet.  I don’t care if your mom’s neighbor’s dog had puppies.  I don’t want to hear the specifics of your airline reservations or your problems replacing your stolen ATM card, nor am I interested in the details of your vacation or your real estate project.  Save your conversations for a more appropriate time and place, which is any place out of my sight and earshot.  You just spent a thousand dollars getting here, so why are you spending 80 percent of your vacation time on Facebook?  

 

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 Why are you spending three hours a day at my shop instead of going to the beach?  Why do you think it is appropriate to go to a restaurant and spend your whole time texting and complaining about my private wifi speed?

I get perverse pleasure in unplugging the internet on the zombies.  When people take up too much table space and have spent too much time nursing free refills on coffee, I unplug the internet and after five desperate minutes when they finally figure out that there is no internet connection, they get up and leave.  I really dislike people who are too cheap to go to an internet cafe or a call center.  I am judgmental, I admit it.  I see a direct correlation between stunted intelligence and cell phone activity.  

These people think they're hip and cool, but they are just a pretentious cliche.  

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I have come seconds away from unplugging the lifeline and standing on the counter screaming, "Get a fucking life!  Turn off your cell phones and have a real conversation!"  

I have nothing in common with the people in these photos save for our classification as homo sapiens.  I am not even sure these kids are human given their desire to embrace transhumanism.  I feel sorry for them, but then I don't.  All this access to information and yet they choose to use cell phones to send naked pictures to each other, in between LOLs and ROTFL and "ur".  

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I don’t care what you ate for dinner or how many beers you consumed the night before or how you got ripped off by your coke dealer at the ATM at 2 o’clock in the morning.  I don’t want to hear the details about the cute bartender (with herpes, stupid girl) that you shagged the night before or that your hot, underaged Nicaraguan girlfriend stole your wallet.  I don’t care if your mom’s neighbor’s dog had puppies.  I don’t want to hear the specifics of your airline reservations or your problems replacing your stolen ATM card, nor am I interested in the details of your vacation or your real estate project.  Save your conversations for a more appropriate time and place, which is any place out of sight and earshot of other people.  

Some people think that I am wealth of knowledge about my little town since I am the owner of a popular bookstore/cafe, but the truth is that I have had to learn to tune out conversations.  Now I just unplug the internet connection when someone is using Skype and annoying me and my customers who don’t want to hear a third-rate therapist doing a counseling session with her client, which was hard to not hear when she was screaming into her computer to someone 3,000 miles away.  Do telecommunications make people ruder, or does it give rude people center stage to showcase their obnoxiousness?  I tune it out, missing the juicy details.  When I want need information, I go to Kelvin, the editor and publisher of the local bilingual weekly paper, who is a regular customer without a smartphone, believe it or not.  

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Wow!  I spent the night cell-hopping with my friends!  We had so much fun spending our time talking on the phone to our other best friends.  
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 Let's hang out together!  Look how much fun we are having!  Aldous Huxley would be proud.

Teens-on-cell-phones1Some days I think Ted Kaczinsky had it right.  Not the idea of bombing and killing of innocent people (that is reserved for the US military and the banksters who create the wars), but that technology disconnects us from life and threatens our very existence.  (Certainly nuclear power has done that.)  

"The industrial revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life expectancy of those of us who live in "advanced" countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation.  It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in ''advanced'' countries."

After being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, he was asked if he was afraid of losing his mind in prison.  He replied:
No, what worries me is that I might in a sense adapt to this environment and come to be comfortable here and not resent it anymore.  And I am afraid that as the years go by that I may forget, I may begin to lose my memories of the mountains and the woods and that's what really worries me, that I might lose those memories, and lose that sense of contact with wild nature in general.  But I am not afraid they are going to break my spirit.
When I read his words, I thought of the people who spend their time engaged in virtual worlds, feeling sorry that so many people have no connection to nature.  They have no connection to life.   They are in a virtual prison, spending their days managing 876 Facebook friends and eagerly awaiting an update about the table setting at their neighbor's best friend's hair stylist's veterinarian's cousin's bar-b-que (and half the photos involve someone on a cell phone).   If they were incarcerated for life, what would they miss?  Facebook is like jail.  People spend their lives engaged in mindless conversation now, so would they quickly adapt if they didn't have anything of substance to miss?  After all, even in prison you can still feed your Facebook addiction.  You can even have a cell phone if you know the right people and have a lot of money.  
 
When I travel to the US, I do not have a cell phone.  Sometimes my sister gives me one of her kids' phones (which admittedly has come in handy when I remembered to charge it or put it in my purse before leaving the house), but at least when I am traveling changing planes in Miami I have the freedom to be cell phone free.  The Miami airport freaks me out: way too many people walking around talking to the phone.  (I will begrudgingly admit that there have been a few occasions where it has been absolute HELL to try to find a pay phone to tell her my connecting flight was delayed or I missed the flight, but I just offer to pay someone to use their phone - no one has ever accepted my money - and hope that she answers a call from a random stranger with a random area code.) 
 
I have owned a cell phone for twelve years and I have never grown to like it.  I am not a phone person, especially with something that emits radiation into your head.  

KAT Tales: How I found my Power Animal

Over the years my friends and acquaintances have shared stories of how they found their animal totems.  After hearing their tales, my immediate thought was, “I need to find my power animal!” - and then I promptly forget about it.  When conjuring up power animals, I always imagined myself to be a humpback whale or dolphin given my astrological connection to water elements, or maybe a cheetah or a leopard, but something in the feline family.   Given the number of friends who have these connections and my deep love of animals (I am insulted if any animal doesn’t like me, which thankfully is a very rare occurrence), I find it hard to believe I waited this long to find my animal connection, but then the story of how it came to appear is rather unbelievable, too, but it is all true.  The universe had to wait until just the right moment to connect with me.

A year ago I went to a Tribal Gathering in Costa Rica, a bridge between the native traditions of the North and South Americas.  It is three nights of sacred ceremonies, with dancing, drumming, flutes, guitars, beautiful voices, prayers and sacred songs around a fire held by shamans.  I have wanted to write about it for some time, but there is no way to convey the emotional release and freedom that followed with this awakening.  I came home with feathers in my hair and I have worn feathers as earrings almost every day since.  I have two alters in my home.  Everything changed. 

It was the first ceremony of this kind that I had ever attended, and my first time without my husband.  We had separated after 25 years of marriage just a month before and I was quite nervous about any issues that might come up in the night.  Thankfully, I was nestled between good friends throughout the journeys.  

The first night of the ceremony was my 44th birthday, but it felt like a new birth.  I felt layers and layers peeling off my soul.  I felt truly free to be myself and express myself without any fear of judgment or negative retribution.  I spent the night blissfully aware, feeling empowered and knowing that I am on the right course.  I have been married my entire adult life minus 3 months.  I felt like my soul had suddenly been freed, like silk scarves being pulled from my heart.  A beautiful sweat lodge followed in the morning.  It felt so magical, like I was Alice in the middle of the magnificent jungle, with monkeys announcing the arrival of dawn.  I cried tears of joy in the ceremony and the sweat, so  happy to be participating and feeling like I was part of a tribe.  I felt fully connected to humanity as one connected energy force.  I felt fully connected to the Pacha Mama.  I wanted everyone in the world to be able to experience these emotions and freedoms in the lush surroundings of the river that winds through the jungle.

The second night of ceremony was all about letting go of my fear - and the contents of my stomach.  The journey was humbling but not unpleasant.  The hardest part was the morning, with the sun streaming down on the faces of happy couples.  Everywhere I gazed, I saw couples or friends snuggling and embracing one another in a happy, beautiful daze.  I felt such pure love at that moment and as I looked around, there was no one with whom I could share the love pouring from every pore in my body and it made me so sad.  A friend hugged me for a long time.  I started to leave my seat in search of more tissues,  a woman I had never met before asked me if I needed a hug.  I sobbed into her shoulders for almost fifteen minutes until I composed myself (and had desperate need for more Kleenex) when I ran into another friend who also held me for several minutes.  Shortly after I saw the shaman, who blessed me with feathers and gave me something to alleviate the tears.  Seconds later I was instantly relieved of any sorrow and the love came pouring out of me and into me.  I was in perfect balance.  In hindsight, my nasal cavity and tear ducts wish that I had seen the shaman 45 minutes earlier, but everything is meant to be as it is.  The sweat lodge that followed was incredible and long, but I managed to stay in the entire time, and even went back on after everyone had exited the last window.  I felt the presence of the universe.  I felt the connection to the ancestors.  I had participated in many sweat lodges before, but this was powerful.

I slept for 13 1/2 hours, awoken by monkeys climbing over the branches above my tent.

The third night of ceremony is non-traditional rock party around a fire that lasted until 4:30 in the afternoon the following day.  I danced for ten hours straight.  I have never done that before in my life.  It was so free and liberating.  In the morning mangos, papayas, pineapples, watermelons, bananas and apples were served, along with coconut water and raw cacao treats and even maca ice cream.  I kept dancing with fistfuls of fruit.  I didn’t feel like the person I was before I entered the ceremony and I never wanted to leave.  I don’t know why people wouldn’t want to cultivate this feeling of love in their lives.  My fondest memory of the journeys was the last morning, close to noon, and I had just gone swimming in the river.  I was resting on a large mat nestled against a group of friends.  One woman was stroking my hair and another woman’s back, someone was squeezing my hand, someone was sleeping on my leg, a hug from somewhere...we all felt the same vibe, all connected as one as we stared at the remains of the fire, hungry and exhausted until the music changed to something more upbeat, and then we were all dancing again.

As I packed my tent and cleaned up my campsite the next day, I started to reminisce over the sweat lodge, wishing that there had been one more.  For the next hour, alI I could think about was how magical Mao’s sweat had been - and it was so hot!  I was impressed that I had the stamina to do the whole thing without a break.  Seasoned veterans opted to escape the heat for a few minutes.  When I wasn’t occupied with thoughts of the sweat lodge, I was thinking about my power animal and how I had missed the opportunity to ask two men, one of whom is studying to be a shaman, how to connect with it.  I sat next to him the first night of the ceremony, but the few times I remembered to inquire were not appropriate to have such a conversation.  The shaman’s apprentice had left earlier in the day.  

That night I looked at the information board and there was announcement for a women’s moon lodge the next day.  My prayers had been answered!

The ceremony was held by the wife of one of the shamans.  She led us through the creation story of the sweat lodge in such a beautiful way that I felt as if I was a painting, experiencing No Name in a scattering of animated visuals.  In the third door, she had us take off our clothes and sit bare assed on the floor, wombs open to the fire.  I am not sure if there was a woman who didn’t shed some tears at that point.  The heat was intense and it was almost impossible to see across the fire, but the faces and the tears were breathtakingly beautiful.  It was the most intense moment of my life.  I was never so connected to my femininity and to female energy.  

The sweat went for three hours.  I didn’t speak for the rest of the day, but I could look into the eyes of the women and instantly connect to their souls.  There was no need for words.

Each day and each experience became more profound.  I felt as if I was on another planet, where peace love and good vegetarian food and raw cacao shots happily coexist in the forest.  I couldn’t imagine taking in anything else.  I was overwhelmed by these new experiences, enthralled and connected... I was looking forward to the silence retreat that started after satsang that evening and to a good night of sleep after the powerful sweat lodge.    

The satsang was the perfect transition into four days of silence.  I walked back to my casita in a dream state.  We were asked to write a note to the woman leading the satsang, just checking in.  I wrote a few paragraphs until sleep overtook me.  Then the dream kicked in.

It was a sex dream, something that I hadn’t had in a while, or at least that I could remember.  In the dream I was making out with a guy I had met at the tribal gathering, a very attractive masseuse-personal trainer-nutritionist-spiritual guru.  Even though I found him incredibly intelligent, attractive, and fun to be with, I was still mourning the end of my marriage and not contemplating any type of relationship with another man at that point.  I was truly enjoying the freedom of being unattached (save for those 45 minutes of sadness).  In the dream, however, the desires came out.  It was frustrating dream.  We went room to room, just making out and looking for a private spot, but each time someone from my life walked into my room.  My youngest sister.  One of my best friends.  An old childhood neighbor.  There didn’t seem to be any connection to them, except they were all annoying because I just wanted to be alone with this guy.  Finally we were about to disrobe when I awoke to feel something on my foot.  It’s my cat, I thought at first, but the cat weighs more and the claws piercing my blanket were much smaller and closer spaced.  It’s the skunk, I thought a second later and looked down to see his/her outline resting of top of my feet.  

The first night I checked into the casita, a skunk made its way into the casita in search of food.  I thought it was a rat, snake or raccoon and freaked out when I saw the skunk in the glow of my flashlight.  It looked around and eventually went back through the cracks in the floor.  It returned each night, biologically programmed to go to Raccoon #4 every night in search of food.  I was only in the casita for three nights before I moved to a tent site on the river.  It was my first night back in the casita and the skunk had not only returned, but was now sitting on my toes.  I pulled the covers over my head and gently wiggled my toes.  A moment later it crawled down the blanket and onto the floor.  I waited a few minutes, but the skunk had not left the casita so I got up and opened the gate and went back to bed.  A few minutes later the skunk scurried out the gate and down the steps.  I got up, shut the gate and went back to bed, more annoyed that I had been awoken from a sex dream than at the skunk who had invaded my bed.  I was too tired to process it and given everything that I had experienced over the past week, it didn’t seem too out of the ordinary.  

I fell back to sleep quickly.  About two hours later (given the position of the moon) I woke up for some unknown reason.  The first thing I felt was fur against my arm.  I sleep hugging a pillow and something furry that wasn’t a cat was resting against my arm.  It was the skunk.  The moment that I grabbed the blanket with my arm and covered my head was the longest moment in the history of time.  I rationalized that the blanket was synthetic velour and probably had some sort of water-repellent chemical concoction on the exterior and would hopefully block the spray from penetrating the blanket.  I am fucked, I thought, but I kept the fear at bay knowing that it would sense fear and would spray.  I waited with the blanket pulled over head, but the skunk didn’t budge.  It was still sleeping, it’s back resting on my right hand that was still tucked underneath the blanket and pillow.  I waited and waited and nothing happened.  I wasn’t about to sleep with the skunk, so I nudged him a bit.  He adjusted himself and went back to sleep.  I nudged him agin, trying not to startle him.  He moved a few inches and paused, deciding what to do .  About a minute later he waddled down to the foot of the bed and crawled down the meditation chair to the floor.  I was too tired to think about the situation.  He knew how to get out.  I went back to sleep.

A few hours later, I had a dream in which my husband came up to me with his arms around two women.  “These are my girlfriends and I am going to marry this one, “ he said, pointing to the woman on the right.

“You can’t do that!” I screamed.  I went to grab him and suddenly he morphed into a  twenty pound chicken struggling in my hands.

Just then I felt bird feet on my shoulder.  It’s the chicken, I thought disoriented from the dream.  I tried to brush something off my shoulder.  It’s the skunk, I thought, and stopped my attempt to swat at it.

“It’s a bird!”  Iopened my eyes and saw a big black bird.  He took two hops and landed on my hip.   I could see his outline.  He jumped to my knees and then propelled himself on the banister.  I stared at his outline for a few seconds and he dove under the shade cloth and into the night.  

“Let go of your attachments.”  I don’t know if it was my voice or someone else’s but I knew the dream was about letting go of my attachment to my husband.  I was too tired to think more about it and I went back to sleep.  “This is not a dream,”  reminded myself before sleep took over.

I woke up to a family of pretty colored birds squawking outside my window.  It wasn’t a dream.  I felt the claws  piercing the blanket.  I felt the weight of the skunk on my feet.  I saw it in the moonlight.  I felt it, heard it, saw it and fortunately didn’t smell it.  I couldn’t make sense of the bird, which had to fly under the shade cloth to enter the casita.   I know it wasn’t a dream.  I remember the feel of it, the sound of its feathers, the shape, the weight...

I went to breakfast and scribbled a p.s. to my sharing.  “I am in silence, but I have to tell someone about this strange experience...” I wrote and gave a brief description of my animal visitors that night.  

As I left the dining area, I saw one of the shamans.  I went over to him and presented  the p.s. portion of my letter (which was longer than the letter) for him to read.  He started smiling and shaking.  He took my pen and wrote something and then he hugged me.  Technically in silence there isn’t supposed to any physical contact  or eye contact , but it was okay to bend the rules when it involves a shaman and your power animal.  He hugged me again and I bowed and gave the Namaste sign, hurrying off to the satsang.

Just before I arrived at the meditation hall, I read his words.

“The skunk is fearless.  Behind the fear is the knowledge and the love.  Enjoy your new freedom.”  

I started to cry, which I did fo rthe next thirty minutes.  I had found my power animal and everything that the shaman wrote was true.  The more I thought about it, the more obvious it should have been that the skunk is very fitting for me.  I am fearless when it comes to many things.  (My friend Ashley might think that because I travel without itineraries, guide books, maps, any knowledge of where I am going or any idea of where I will be going....)  

During lunch, I was looking at an assortment of tarot decks and selected the Yantra cards.  “What did the skunk and the bird mean?” I asked.

“Signs.”

A few months later I borrowed a book on Totem Animals and discovered that when the crow appears with the animal, it is a sign that it is your totem animal. 

And that is the story of how I found my power animal.


Geoffrey the Goose makes herself comfortable

A photo from Courtney Dow, one of the latest members of the growing Geoffrey the Goose Fan Club.  I have become quite attached to her, though I am not sure that is a good thing.

Jeffrey the goose at gato negroYou can see more crazy photos like this at the El Gato Negro album.  Yes, El Gato Negro should have a website according to Conventional Wisdom of the 21st Century, but there are so many better things I could be doing - like doing absolutely nothing - than creating content for the website that disappeared a year ago because my credit card expired.


Goosed

This baby gosling lives behind El Gato Negro, but he seems to prefer my shop to his "pond" at my landlady's house.  For the past two days this cutie pie has been walking through the store, chirping for attention.  He even crawls up onto my lap to sleep!

Since opening, we have had cats, dogs, birds, a sloth, an ocelot, ducks, chickens, parrots, and congo and spider monkeys hanging out with us,  and now a goose!  Definitely not something you will see at your local coffeehouse in the US.

 

Kelly and the goose
Me and Niño


Happy Mother's Day!

Thank you, mom, for giving me life.

Linda kelly reeves

(I like this picture.  My mom and I were at Dandrea's, our favorite breakfast place in Bradenton.  I was fooling around with my new camera, shooting random photos.  I wasn't paying attention to the women in the background, but I like their presence.)

Mom in big chair

 

Bw mom

 

Mom

6a00d83455ad0369e200e54f36899b8833-640wi

A flashback: Mom and me in Ireland in May 2004.

 


Thoughts on Chernobyl, the Gulf of Mexico and Fukushima

“Mommy, mommy, why am I dying?”

“Chernobyl!  Chernobyl!”

“Chernobyl is like the war of all war.  There’s nowhere to hide.  Not underground, not underwater, not in the air.”  (Unknown)

"I've wondered why everyone was silent about Chernobyl, why our writers weren't writing much about it — they can write about the war, or the camps, but here they're silent. Why? Do you think it's an accident? If we'd beaten Chernobyl, people would talk about it and write about it more. Or if we'd understood Chernobyl. But we don't know how to capture any meaning from it. We're not capable of it. We can't place it in our human experience or human timeframe.

"So what's better, to remember or to forget?"

—Yevgeniy Aleksandrovich Brovkin, instructor at Gomel State University

For the past three and a half years, I have felt compelled to visit and photograph Chernobyl.  I don’t know why, but it called me over and over.  I didn’t have a plan - I just wanted to see it in person, to feel the energy.  I looked into airfare a few times, but in the end I chose not to go.  It seemed too extravagant and difficult to fulfill my morbid curiosity and need to understand.

When oil started gushing into the Gulf of Mexico last year, it was as if another Chernobyl had been unleashed upon the planet.  I compared the two events in my head, understanding the effects of Chernobyl after 24 years and knowing in my soul that what happened in the Gulf of Mexico (and what continues to happen - it’s not over) would be even worse in terms of human life and damage to the planet.  The damage is happening - people have died, other have just a few days left before they die, many more people are seriously ill, and countless show the early stages of poisoning from the crude cocktail laced with benzene, methane and Corexit thrown in for good measure.  Many do not understand that they have been poisoned.  Humans think they are invincible.  They are not.

It was my hope that something good could come from this disaster in the Gulf,  I had this naive belief that humans might have a new and deeper appreciation for life on earth.  Maybe we would abandon deep water drilling and reduce our need for oil-based products, like plastic.  I thought that the images of oil soaked pelicans and dead dolphins washing up on the tar covered beaches would inspire humanity to change its ways.  I already admitted it was a naive belief, but still I held onto it, only to be stunned and saddened to return to Florida in January to see that nothing had changed.  I could smell chemicals and never even strayed onto the beach, but the majority went on as if nothing had ever happened.  They continued to play on the beach and eat Gulf seafood every night.  It was hard to watch.

I received an offer to write about and photograph the damage to the Gulf, but I was afraid of the proximity to the poisoned sea, afraid of being caught in a Corexit rainstorm, afraid of being poisoned myself.  How odd is that?  I had no fear about visiting Chernobyl (with protective gear), and yet I couldn’t bring myself to spend a few weeks or a month in the Gulf of Mexico, reporting on a subject that has caused me more agony and sadness than anything else in my life - and I haven’t always had an easy life.

Then came Fukushima.  I didn’t see the images or read the news for the first two days.  I was in a silent retreat - thank god.  I overheard someone mention an earthquake in Japan on Friday morning, but I put it out of my head.  There was nothing I could do.  By the evening, I felt sad energies weighing me down.  In the morning, I learned that a tsunami struck, leaving a quarter of a million people homeless.  I did a lot of dance meditation that day, releasing energies through movement.  I ended my silence Sunday afternoon and headed to an internet cafe to see what had happened.  That was when I first learned about Fukushima.  I felt like I had been hit with a lead pipe.  The world had just changed, though many people did not know it.  They still don’t know that it has changed.  I stared at the images on my computer screen.  Three reactors in melt-down.  “Partial meltdown.”  There is no such thing as a partial meltdown.  They won’t be able to stop it, I said to myself.

I returned from the doom, grateful for my life.  I could not stop crying tears of sorrow and tears of gratitude.  It was the most powerful meditation and prayer experience of my life.  I could not stay silent - I had to thank the universal energy for my existence, even though I wondered how long I might exist.

I still wonder.  I worry for my family, for my friends, for strangers.

In my search for answers, I came across a short documentary entitled “Chernobyl Legacy” by Paul Fusco.  Despite seeing this linked on several sites, I couldn’t bring myself to watch it.  Today I finally found the courage to face what I did not want to face.  It’s a series of black and white photos taken of children affected by the fallout.  The photos are from 1997.  Some of the children were alive prior to Chernobyl, while others were conceived in the years after.

I will warn you that it is sad and gruesome, but I am linking to it because I think everyone needs to watch this.  It will make you uncomfortable.  It will likely change your attitude toward nuclear energy.  Maybe someone should send the link to Ann Coulter, who claimed that radiation was a good thing and wards off cancer. 

“Chernobyl.  It took me about six months to arrange it. And it was an awakening to a problem that was just overwhelming and this two week story turned into two month endeavor.  It changed my life.  It changed what I wanted to do.  It was so immense in its implications. There is so much damage to so many people in so many different ways.  My first reaction was that I was looking at a different race of people because the damage was so incredible.”  - Paul Fusco

I am overwhelmed by the images and the stories that go along with them.  This is the kind of journalism that inspires me and that I want to emulate, but I have never had the fortitude to pursue.  Maybe that will change in the future - if there is a future. In the meantime, I will try to keep others informed in other ways, reaching out to as many as possible in hopes that we face these truths.

Click here to watch the documentary.

http://inmotion.magnumphotos.com/essay/chernobyl

 


Vote for Vanessa

...to be on the Cover of Yoga Journal!

My friend, Vanessa, is trying to secure enough votes to make the cover of Yoga Journal.  Since the YM site doesn't use Diebold software, she is stuck trying to win the old fashioned way - actual voting!  The good thing is that you can vote every day, just by clicking on this link and voting - she deserves it!

Vanessa yoga

Vanessa is one of my closest friends and my first (and favorite) yoga instructor.  It would be so nice to finally see someone other than circus freaks on the cover of the magazine.  I mean, seriously, do you think it is normal to wrap both  feet behind your head while balancing on two hands?  Vanessa is a great teacher, but she isn't intimidating like Shva Rae, who makes me not want to do yoga some days because .. well, there is something unnatural about people who can do standing splits!

Please vote for Vaness here:

http://talentsearch.yogajournal.com/view/2146

P.S. You can vote every day until the contest ends!


My letter to Bloomberg regarding the safety of radioactive isotopes in the US milk supply

from Bloomberg:

Radiation “far below” levels that pose a risk to humans was found in milk from California and Washington, the first signs Japan’s nuclear accident is affecting U.S. food, state and federal officials said.

The U.S. is stepping up monitoring of radiation in milk, rain and drinking water, the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration said yesterday in a statement.

...

Consumer safety is the highest priority for dairy farmers and dairy-foods companies,” Giambroni said. “The dairy industry will continue to work closely with federal and state government agencies to ensure that we maintain a safe milk supply.”

California produced about 40 billion pounds of milk in 2007, valued at $7.3 billion, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture website.

Consumers should have no concern about radiation in fruits and vegetables, said Patrick Delaney, spokesman for the Washington-based United Fresh Produce Association, which represents produce companies.

“At this point, there isn’t a danger of contamination,” Delaney said in an interview.

Sure,  just because milk was affected doesn't mean plants and humans are affected.  I suppose it should not come as a surprise that this came from a financial media corporation that is more interested in protecting markets (and clients) than reporting the truth of this disaster.  If they had reported the truth, the Dow Jones would not be up.

The Fukushima disaster that has the potentila to be an extinction level event is bad enough, but the copywriters for the media (there is no journalism or reporting) aremaking it worse.  After reading the  article in Bloomberg regarding the supposed safety of radioactive milk in the Pacific Northwest, I had to compose a letter to the reporters and their editor.  I also had to send a quick apology for claiming that they did not state the levels, as they did (and the only ones so far to have done so) and I happened to miss that one sentence.  Still, they are lying and obfuscating to protect the bankers and the politicians, ie. their client base.  I had to say something, even if it was impulsive, hasty and far from what I would have sent had I spent more time composing my thoughts.  Here is my rant:

Dear Kim and Stephanie,

The recent headline reads, "Radiation 'Far Below' Risk Levels Found in US Milk Samples", but I have yet to see one organization report the actual numbers.  Why is that?  If there is nothing to hide, why not be forthcoming with the information?  Isn't that what journalists are supposed to do - verify the information and report the facts accurately? Instead, we are supposed to believe a bunch of unqualified political appointees who have a solid history off lying to the American public.  It was bad enough when the EPA lied about the asbestos from the buildings that imploded on 9-11 (and really too bad no investigative reporter for the mainstream press asked Larry Silverstein why he purchased those asbestos-laden buildings with 50 percent occupancy knowing it would be his responsibility to remove the asbestos at a cost of tens of billions of dollars), but to lie about the nuclear disaster is a crime against humanity.  Now the EPA is about to revise the acceptable levels of radiation for no other reason than to keep the blatantly rigged markets alive and a corrupt and criminal government in power.  Of course, no one will mention GE's culpability.  Why would a news organization dependent upon corporate advertisers bite the hand that feeds it?  Certainly I expect no financial reporter to write something that could cause investors to dump GE stock en mass, and yet I wonder how it is that a journalist can sleep at night, knowing that the lies and cover-ups will kill millions of people.

There has yet to be real reporting of this calamity.  The reactors cannot be saved - this was known from the beginning.  Remember that yellow-gray smoke coming from Reactor 3?  That was plutonium.  The press claimed it was hydrogen, but hydrogen burns white with a blue flame.  Plutonium burns yellow-gray with an orange flame.  We already know that an internal crane collapsed onto the spent fuel rods, though the Japanese government and TEPCO were remiss in reporting that little factoid for almost two weeks.  It's like y'all pulled something out of the Gulf of Mexico playbook - minimize the disaster to protect the markets and BP because lets face it, if BP went down, that would have triggered the inevitable market crash and evidently the parasites at Goldman Sachs and the PRIVATE Federal Reserve have yet to finish looting the economy.  Evidently they will not be happy until they own 99.99 percent of all the world's resources.  Are you happy to help them along with this process?  There is a word for people like that.  I will let you figure out the synonym to which I refer.

What is the purpose of covering up the truth?  Do you understand that the majority of people around the world have little or no respect for media organizations such as Bloomberg?  We are not as stupid as you might want to believe.  Okay, there are plenty of stupid people on this planet, but even many of the stupid ones understand when they are being lied to.

I don't expect you to do anything but delete this email, pretending that you somehow know more than I do about these situations, though I have yet to see any reporter, TelePrompTer reader or sexually deviant political loud mouth drink the contaminated milk.  No one is exactly rushing to the Fukushima reactors to give an in-depth report, either, meaning the media does not even believe its own lies and propaganda.  You have obviously made your choices - the mortgage and the fancy car, the nice clothes and the credibility of working for Bloomberg are more important than your consciousness.  That is really too bad.  Just remember that when the inevitable dung hits the fan, the people whose deaths you have contributed to will not forget your names.

Sincerely,

Kelly Ann Thomas

For the record, the Canadian government will NOT test their milk, even though there  is a whole lot of radiation blanketing British Columbia.

 


Awareness: An (Unsuccessful) Experiment in the Miami Airport

During a layover at the Miami International Airport last week, I did my usual routine of crossing between terminal D and E to enjoy the brilliant artwork by Miami students displayed along the corridor walls.  There are always at least a few quality pieces, but last month’s selection (wood block printing) was over the top in the number of stunning colorful prints and collages that decorated the walls.  I saw works of art that matched the visual quality of some pieces I have seen in galleries, museums and art shows.

 When I reversed my walking direction to return to Terminal D, the first thing that I noticed was that no one else paid any attention to the art.  I stood for a few minutes, watching as at least a hundred people passed by, too absorbed with their cellphones, Blackberries, iPhones and iPods to notice anything but the carpet three feet in front of their shoes.  I walked to the center of the corridor and stood beside a wall, watching people come and go from both directions.  After at least five minutes had passed, not one person had even looked at the art.  No one turned their head, no one stood back to take in these beautiful works of creativity.

 I trailed back to a display case housing two abstract collages that would have looked good in any of the homes in South Beach, standing five feet away to take in all the images.

 A few people stepped around me, but no one stopped to see what it was that had caused me to stand and stare in admiration.  I stood a little longer, watching the reflection of travelers in the glass as they passed back and forth like of a colony of ants on a mission, but not even one person glanced in the direction of the art.  I walked to another case and stood in the middle of the corridor while admiring the next grouping of paintings and prints.  People walked around me or in front of me, but none stopped to take in this collage of creativity. 

 Inspired by the half-read copy of Paulo Coehlo’s “The Valkyries” in my carry-on (a story in which awareness is a central theme), I did an experiment.  I was in a great mood (despite that I consider myself an artist and it made me a little sad that no one saw let alone appreciated the art on the walls), having been “bumped up” to Business Class on the Miami-Managua leg, so smiling wasn’t a problem.  I decided to smile and make eye contact with every person I passed for the next hour and a half.  While I might not get a call back from the Ford Modeling Agency, I am not what most people would call unattractive.  Men half my age hit on me and I still get carded at 43.  I wore a very short, artsy-hippie-girl-who-lives-in-Provence kind of dress that has received several compliments at home.  It was a great hair day and I was about to embark in the wonderful business class seats.  I was feeling pretty good.

Despite my self-assurance , friendly attitude and the tens of thousands of people passing through this airport, I garnered almost no attention.  Over the next hour, I could only make eye contact with five people people.  Upon making eye contact, I smiled wider (not a fake or forced smile, nothing creepy).  Four of those people kept a neutral face and looked away.  The only person that smiled back and appeared genuinely friendly was the bomb/drug sniffing dog handler.  I passed him four times and we always exchanged a hello.  In truth, I just wanted to go up and pet the dog, but I think that is against protocol, at least in the US.  I didn’t want to get his handler in trouble, so I resisted my natural urge to go over to the dog and start scrunching his neck and ears.

The employee of the Au Bon Pain seemed bored out of her skull, but she wouldn’t take the time to look me in the eye or respond to conversation.  The two employees at the news counter were too busy gabbing with each other in Spanish (and speaking to me in Spanish) to notice anything more than my wallet and debit card.  One did remember to adhere to the corporate profit guidelines and ask if I wanted to by a bottle of water for $3.50, but there was no eye contact.  The cashier at the bookstore shared his love of history books with me, but as soon as we made a millisecond of eye contact, his gaze shifted.  

The next person I made eye contact with was the ticket agent at the gate.  Five people in 90 minutes in one of the busiest airports in the United Sates mid morning, the busiest time of the day.  

 The book mentions that we often get stuck in our second mind, the one that traps us with static and clutter and useless chatter.  Most humans do not look beyond a small perimeter of their environment.  I doubt more than a few people I passed that day would have been able to recognize me ten seconds later. 


Surviving in Nicaragua

San juan del sur sunset cropped

photo copyright Kelly Ann Thomas

(See more photos of San Juan del Sur here.)  

Survivor.  I watched the first show of the season with mixed emotions.  I found it funny, campy, intriguing, cheesy and disconcerting.  It portrays Nicaragua beautifully.  (Thank goodness they filmed this year and not last year during the drought.)  It was fun sitting with my friends, listening to people call out the names of the beaches and surf breaks as the contestants were introduced.  I watched the show at my friend Kiel’s house.  We were supposed to go to Big Wave Dave’s for the premier, but a.) I wanted to hear the dialogue - there is nothing worse than people jabbering when you are trying to pay attention to the television screen and b.) I didn’t want the crew to see my reactions if I did not like the show.

I have not actively watched television in years, since the third or fourth episode of the second season of “24”.   In spite of my aversion to it, television and the subsequent celebrity culture is everywhere and it can be hard to escape the background noise, hence the reason I know that Lindsey Lohan is out of rehab and Paris Hilton was arrested for possession of cocaine.  Worst of all is that neither story surprises me because I already know way too much about the vapid lifestyles of these paparazzi whores.  I can no longer name all nine Supreme Court Justices, (because I am in my Kafka “It’s-not-my-government-unless-recognize-it-as-so” mode and I just don’t give a damn about any of of it - it’s not mine and I refuse to take responsibly for it).  On the other hand, because I am not exposed to the HD Brain Death Ray, I have managed to avoid learning the names of Obama’s children.  Well, one of them.  I am unable to name Obama’s dog as well.  I have totally tuned out the guy with the plasticine face.  I am not even sure that I could recognize his voice in a recording since I usually manage to leave the room when his face appears on TV and I read (skim) transcripts of his speeches.  I don’t find his words or his voice inspiring and never have.

What does this have to do with Survivor?  Nothing.  I am just rambling because I don’t know what to make of the show ad I don’t know how to respond from the people who have crawled out from under the woodwork to ask my opinion.  I own a bookstore, so it should be fairly obvious that I prefer books to movies and television.   l have committed myself to watching the show for the season because it was filmed around San Juan del Sur on the beach where I ride my horse and along the coastline that I call home.  And I am watching it because I like the producers, crew and host and I want to see what they have been doing all these weeks.  They have been very gracious and I will miss them when they leave.  

I had no idea what would happen when the production crew arrived.  I never saw the show, though I was aware of its basic premise.  The crew is decidedly unHollywood, with an eclectic assortment of passports and accents.  I am still learning that people I thought were tourists are actually crew members.  They are all so chill.  Usually the only way to recognize them is the walkie talkie or the paint and sawdust on their shorts.  Or when they get out of the ubiquitous silver Hilux pickups, Prados and the base camp shuttles.  They make the town feel busy.  It’s a shame that they work long hours because I would have liked to have gotten to know a few people better.  

I tried to step back and watch my reaction to the show.  Survivor is billed as a “real” reality show, unlike the over the top fake Real World and some other series that has a blond woman enlarging her breasts in Barbie doll proportions in a pathetic attempt to gain more attention.  Okay, that probably describes every fake reality show out there.  These contestants really do have to survive on their wits, skills and ability to forage food.  Given the way they were dressed, it’s obvious most have not prepared.  Their clothes are all wrong.  The men should not have worn jeans.  It has rained almost every day of filming (or so it seems) and it’s unlikely their pants will ever dry.  That just gives them excuses to parade around in underwear that is so obviously the wrong fabric choice, and not just because they have to blur out the genitalia in an effort to prevent the contestants from suffering from embarrassing shrinkage problems amplified by HD TV.  Cotton underwear and jeans in a jungle/ocean for several weeks is a recipe for candida.  Or that stinky, nasty, rancid smelling sweat that interacts with testosterone and cotton fibers rendering shirts unwearable permanently.  It’s a rainy season problem.  I hope they have something else to wear.  Maybe one of their rewards will be one of those pastel colored and unfashionable (if you are under 60 and live outside of the confines of Florida) Columbia outfits composed of shirts with removable sleeves and pants that turn into shorts.  (I admit that no access to an REI forced the purchase of a pair of truly unflattering khaki outdoor pants that came in handy in the Amazon and thus worth the unflattering photos, even though they are so unflattering that I will not post them). You’d think that the contestants would have paid a visit to REI before they boarded the plane.  While they were at it, maybe the contestants should have read a survival book or two.  

Digging for clams 

(Did the contestants dig for clams like this San Juan del Sur native?) 

Or maybe despite everyone's assurances, it really isn’t about survival.  Where do they get their fresh water?  What do they collect it in?  Where dothey sleep?  Where do they find the time and energy to participate in challenges after hunting for food?  Did they hike down to Rancho Tere’s for pollo empanizado and Tona? 

The contestants are an interesting mix.  I am rooting for the southern woman who started the fire with her glasses.  I think that the guy they call Fabio might be a brilliant actor-wannabe who will reveal his true intelligence (and thus his brilliant acting) at an opportune time. I am appalled by most of the younger men.  I hope they all lose the contest, but not before Nicaragua puts those cocky pretty boys in their place.

Wendy Jo was so freaking annoying that it was hysterical.  I couldn’t stop laughing as she went on and on and on and on and on.  I think her family submitted her name so they could get a vacation away from her and the casting director chose her for the comic relief that for me culminated with tears and shouts of, “Stop!” as she defended herself.  I waxed between sympathy and hysterical disbelief before she was voted off, at which point I felt bad for her, but more even more for myself, as I realized that I had took pleasure in mocking her ceaseless monologues about nothing (which lacked any trace of humor from Jerry Seinfeld’s monologues about nothing).  I know that this is a game, but I was hoping to see a little more of their first night in the jungle, what they ate (there are no fruit trees where the La Flor team is planted, that I know), how they cooked fish, how they boiled the water, etc.  Instead, it was all about talking trash.  It’s amazing how they could find so much to say about contestants they just barely met.  

I tried to put my animosity in context.  Why did I instantly dislike these people whom I know only from pixels illuminated on a television screen?  Why do I even care?  Why am I sucked into this drama?  Does anyone ever ask themselves these questions when they are watching television?  Does it even matter since I am committed to watching the show for the season?

So I will continue to watch Survivor, knowing that the majority of the contestants would never survive living in Nicaragua.  I mean, could anyone one of these contestants survive a carjacking in Managua on a Saturday night without knowing a soul and leave the country loving the people even more the when they arrived?  Could they open a  business in a foreign country AND make money?  Would they have been able to continue living in Nicaragua after a violent home invasion that included the shooting of a spouse?  And without a million dollars for “surviving”?  I think not.  TV is much different from reality, evn a reality show based upon survivalism.  

 

Sunset in september san juan del sur