Guatemalan Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
    • purchased at a grocery store with a wandering armed guard
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 over ripe banana
    • Purchased a week ago from the lady at the market that sold me a dozen for about a dollar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
    • I am so against using margarine, but it is the cheapest and most accessible option for me right now. Butter is triple the price and I have to walk about a mile to get it. Not suitable for late night cookie needs.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
    • That I had to purchase at the pharmacy where they keep it behind the counter and take your name down to purchase. Wonder why…
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup peanuts minced
    • Because peanut butter is expensive, and I can found a pound of peanuts for about a dollar
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
    • Taken from the two pounds I also bought at the pharmacy. They’re more like chips pretending to be chocolate, because the real thing was the equivalent of $10.

Combine sugars, butter, banana, vanilla, egg and salt. Then add flour and baking soda slowly. Finally, add chocolate chips and peanuts. Grease a sheet and place cute little balls of dough on there. Stick it in your oven a temp that feels right. There’s no numbers on my oven, and watch them. If they get fluffy and stay fluffy, you’ve done it right. If they fall flat, you probably did something wrong, but who knows really?

Eat cookies until you feel satisfaction. I suggest no more than three.


By the River

“Why are there flowers by the water,” I ask even though I know the answer. I asked her the same thing two years ago. Sometimes it’s just nice to hear the words twice. People put the bouquets next to the river to thank god for the water, to ask for rain, and in remembrance of loved ones passed. “All of the agriculture depends on this,” she says after explaining one more time and gesturing to the turquoise blue water pooling in between and running over moss covered rock. I can see steps reminiscent of the ones I’ve seen at the ruinas peaking out of the shinny slime, and I imagine Mayan people washing their clothes, gathering, and playing here centuries before just as they are now. Bright colors of huipils and soda bottles reflect off the clear water as I watch a man jump off a rock into the cold water. I consider doing the same.

While I drove up the dirt road to Rio Blanca with my two friends, I allowed my eyes to momentarily wander to admire the beautiful fields separated by aqueducts carrying water from the rivers inward, irrigating fields of white cloth covered tomatoes, garlic, onion, radish, and more. I haven’t seen rain since I left the United States. The curling leaves on the lemon trees in my backyard beg for it, and I could use a cleansing rinse myself. I studied sustainable agriculture in college, but this type of irrigation is by necessity not trying to spare resources for later. The beauty of theories in practice successfully as they’ve been working for years and years carries my mind to Berea and back quickly to avoid a motorcycle in my path.

Aguacatan’s rivers allowed me to pretend I was at Norris Dam, and it’s mountains brought back visions of Colorado in the summer time. I’m not missing the US, though. Just the people I love there. Maybe it’s the weekend jaunts, coffee dates, or community, but I’m feeling accustomed to my new life right about now.

(1 month & 1 week)


Bees crawl in and out of clear plastic wrapping stealing bits of sugar from tough pastries. I consider purchasing them anyway due to their donut-like resemblance, but I move on remembering the disappointment I found in my last visit. I purchase potatoes and carrots at the door to the stalls before stepping over a small cage of brightly colored chicks and pushing through a crowd of people selling everything from underwear to plastic bags to ask about the blackberries that are calling my name across the street.

“5 a pound,” says the woman as she sees me eying their juicy flesh. A truck honks and I end up almost sitting in the blackberries. Other people are pressed up against walls to allow the truck to pass through the crowded street. After it passes, I nod and pay the lady for the blackberries, because I’m already a bit winded from arguing about broccoli and garlic, and I need to try to find the ladies selling bread before they leave. I didn’t find them though, and I settle for buying tortillas on the way home knowing I’ll be back tomorrow anyway.

A Month Gone

I left my Tennessee home just over a month ago. My late morning drive to Knoxville to work as a cook turned into a early morning walk to school to spend a long day teaching English. My nights out with friends turned into studying, reading, writing, and planning. My idea of a good time changed from drinking and playing card games to sharing coffee or a meal with someone new.

A new friend invited me to her home last weekend to share a meal. During the hours I spent there, she shared with me a delicious meal, freshly roasted coffee, and the story of how she transitioned from Ethiopia to the US to Guatemala. She sent me home with gifts and a very warm heart, but our discussion left me with a sense of purpose.

Beyou said that in our teenage years we are allowed to be a bit reckless and on an undetermined path meandering about, but by 20 years old or so, we should be looking to focus and setting objectives for our lives. She added that my time here in Guatemala is the perfect opportunity to focus on this.

Earlier this week, my boss and friend here at Ixtatan Foundation gave me a set of objectives for the semester. One of them was to improve my Spanish. Although I learn a little bit more everyday, my Spanish is still far from proficient, and tackling this language in ten months with busy days seems like an overwhelming task at the moment.

So, now after having spent the same amount of time here in Huehuetenango as I did during my first visit in 2015, I am considering spending next year here as well. I am constantly reminded of the fact that I am a foreigner, which is humbling. Teaching, although tiring, is incredibly fulfilling. I constantly feel slightly uncomfortable. Some call it masochism, I call it push for growth. I have grown and changed so much this month that even after being robbed (and the constant fear of it happening again), I’m thankful to be here, and I hope that my learning and gratitude multiply 9 fold in the coming months.

For now, I have made no concrete decisions. I walk around town everyday with as confident a face as an unsure gringa can have and a tiny knife in my pocket. In the evening, after returning home, I do what work I can before going to bed while I listen to the students upstairs speaking Chuj, crickets chirping outside, and a band practicing across the street. Life is busy here, and I am content.




San Mateo Ixtatán Fights for Water

What a tiny town in the mountains of Guatemala has in common with Standing Rock, North Dakota

San Mateo Ixtatan, Huehuetenago, Guatemala, is situated in a cloud forest of the Chuchumantes Mountains just south of the Mexican border. The small town is home to about 30,000 indigenous Chuj people. For decades this area has had an abundance of water, an attribute not shared with neighboring cities in their municipality.

Right now, they are protesting against a Spanish owned hydroelectric plant being built against their will. The plant has been under construction for several years even though citizens unanimously voted against it.

How is the plant moving forward?

The Spanish owned company went to Guatemala City, the country’s capitol to receive permits and went to work. Legally, however, the capitol city didn’t have the right to grant permission. The mayor of San Mateo at the beginning of construction opposed the plant. However, when his term limit was up, the hydroelectric plant funded the campaign of another man, with a similar history with women as our current president in the US. He came to power and has allowed the construction to continue.

San Mateo does have a shortage of electricity, and when citizens have appealed to the government, the government has reminded them of this and told them they have no other options, hydroelectric plant or no electricity at all.

What’s the big deal?

The construction reroutes two rivers affecting farmers and water supply to the town, and citizens have taken every legal route possible to fight it’s construction. They organized meetings, appealed to the capitol, and tried to discuss the situation with their new mayor to no avail.

What is happening now?

In neighboring cities, where similar hydroelectric plants began construction, people destroyed the equipment and halted construction after they ran out of options. This gave the plant in San Mateo reason to place armed police outside of their own site. When people of San Mateo went to the site of the plant in protest, the police opened fire killing one protestor.

This happened last week, and there has been no word of new developments since that time.

One week down

next tp the school.jpg

I’ve been in Huehuetenango for a little over a week. I arrived here after two short flights, a taxi ride through busy Guatemala City, and a long bus ride through switch back turns into the mountains. Since I arrived, I’ve just been relaxing, eating more friend plantains and street food than anyone ever should, attending a couple workshops, and hesitantly approaching teaching materials.

I just finished my first lesson plan, and sent it on to be approved. I start teaching classes in two days, and that will be an entirely new adventure that I am very nervous about. As always, it will work out. Here’s to hoping the students aren’t too mean to me.

There and Gone Again

I returned to the US from my last bit of international travel about a month ago. This past month has been filled with so much love, joy, and… well traveling. There is always an initial rush of excitement when I get to see friends and family after being away for a little while. I enjoy hearing about what they’ve been up to and sharing a couple stories. Then there’s the prolonged loved that I feel for those folks and the places we enjoy in each other’s company.

One of those places is Lexington, KY. I’m always drawn there and never want to leave. Memories of kitchen counter sitting, late night doll house building, eating Thai food in a packed Irish bar, trips to Al’s, Arcadium, and The Breadbox keep me going when I’m feeling lonely rambling around.

I couldn’t visit Lexington without going to Berea. Most of my friends graduated this past semester, but there’s still a few good ones around and plenty of beauty to make it a place worth stopping. We sat around singing and playing cards more than a couple times this past month, any group that will put up with my singing voice is definitely worth keeping around. I was even able to head up to the 144 home of the Parsons family before leaving for a quick jaunt down to Florida with my momma and sister.

Now, I’m sitting in a hotel room lovingly provided by a friend from high school feeling thankful for the kindness of others and the weight of the upcoming journey.

Tomorrow, I head to Huehuetenango, Guatemala. I was there for about a month during the summer of 2015, but this time, I’m returning for 10 months of English teaching in an elementary school and a university, and to be a house mother at the Ixtatan Foundation house. My Spanish skills are pretty seriously lacking at the moment. I’m expecting the next few months to be filled with a lot of learning (quickly, I hope), sharing, a bit of struggle, and TONS of tamales and chuchitos.

I needed this time at home, and it was a wonderful reminder of the love I have for so many beautiful people and the love they have for me. Finding true friends is rare, but there are gems of humans that I’m glad let me hang around them. I’m even more lucky to have the family I do. I stopped by 12 Oaks for a little while and got to spend some much needed time with the Mountain Man. Tearful goodbyes are always the hardest part of embarking on a new adventure, but that always means there’s love to carry with me.

Barcelona on the Cheap

Barcelona is the perfect city for visiting on a tiny budget and having a wonderful time.

What to see: PARKS! ALL THE PARKS! Make sure to see as much Gaudi architecture as possible as well, not that it’s hard. There are beautiful parks all over the city. My favorite was the labyrinth park that was a metro stop away from my hostel. I don’t remember the specific name, but it was 2 euros to get in to what seemed to be a secret garden just behind a stadium filled with rubble. It’s the kind of place you feel like you shouldn’t be, which adds to the magic. I sat there and sketched in the rain for a bit.

How to get around: Depending on your length of stay there are a few options. I was in Barcelona for four days, and I purchased the “T-10” ticket at my first metro station. This is 10 euros for 10 metro trips. The normal rate is 2 euro a trip. So, there are definitely savings there.

I also did a lot of walking. Speaking a bit of Spanish is helpful, if you are opting to walk long distances across the city with only a map as it can be easy to get lost down winding roads.

Where to stay: There are loads of affordable accommodation throughout Barcelona, and even if you stay a bit away from the main attractions, the metro is widespread and can get you very close to all of the main attractions.

I stayed at Feetup Garden House Hostel, and it was definitely in my top five hostel experiences. There was a great community vibe there and a grocery store and the metro just around the corner.

If I were to do it again, though. I would have tried to find an equally small hostel (the best for meeting people and getting an authentic experience) in Gracia. It’s an up and coming part of town and has a decent art scene. I walked through and ran into a three block long flea market with artists, hipsters (a lot), and vintage lovers. I picked up a gift for my brother for cheap.

Moseying Around Morocco & Dublin

Morocco was so full of weird and wonderful. I was afraid before I went, because so many people told me about how dangerous it would be for a solo white female traveler to be in a Muslim country. To be honest, I was harassed there, but I was also shown kindness beyond mere hospitality. Men made kissy noises at me, tried to get my attention by hollering at me, looked me up and down, one tried to grab me, and my friend Callie has been followed home on multiple occasions. This experience isn’t unique to Morocco, though. Men in Italy, Greece, and the US have treated me in a similar way. I do think that men are more forgiven for those disgusting actions here in Morocco than other countries I’ve visited. Those terrible humans should not keep anyone from visiting this beautiful country, though, because Morocco has much to offer visitors.

Rabat felt like home quickly as the smells, streets, and winding passageways quickly reminded me of Guatemala. I loved getting to know the different paths through the maze of the medina by memorizing land marks like a mosque door way here, a mosaic there, the place where that one creepy dude is always standing, or a sequence of different colored walls. Callie’s host momma definitely made me feel at home as well. Jouharra is a beautiful women that started learning English by watching Oprah, which is amazing to me. The rest she’s learned from students she’s hosted over the years and from her job. Jouharra made us dinner every night we were in Rabat and welcomed me into her home one night. Two finches dubbed King and Queen also have free reign over Jouharra’s house. They fly in and out of the window she leaves cracked for them and have a couple of nests in the corners of the beautifully tiled walls.

We all went to Chefchaouen for a couple days in the middle of my Morocco trip, and the mountainous landscape was refreshing. We ate a wonderful diner at this restaurant Callie found us down in a corner of the medina and had a little adventure after a short food coma. I talked with a weaver in Spanish that day as well, feeling relieved to have been able to understand much of what he said.

The return to Rabat and remainder of my time in Morocco was restful, and I was thankful for the relaxed pace in the day. Upon my return, I received  conformation that I would begin teaching in Guatemala in January 2017, and I’m excited to be spending ten months there. Knowing there is another adventure planned is always exciting.

I’m in Dublin now, and I already miss hearing the calls to prayer, warmth, and rawness of Morocco. I pulled myself from my hostel bed cocoon to make the short walk to Trinity College and see the book of Kells, and it was definitely worth the 10 euro entry fee to walk into that library, smell nothing but old books, and imagine climbing the narrow ladders behind the roped off isles to thumb through the volumes that filled the tall shelves.

Tomorrow, I wake up way to early to head to Barcelona. I’m hoping my time there is filling with sipping wine, eating tapas, and ogling at architecture. My travels come to pause very soon, and I’m both anxious and appreciative of the month off I’ll be receiving at home.

Change of Plans & Morocco



From the terrace of our hotel


Morocco is so beautifully chaotic, and I’ve been shown more kindness than I could ever expect since I’ve been here. When I left the airport, I crossed the street to get a taxi but ran into a bus driver that knew exactly where I needed to go. While on the bus watching horse drawn carriages, bicycles, and scooters weave in and out of traffic, I talked to a German man on Holiday that hadn’t reserved accommodation. He said he’d go with me to mine, if that was okay, and I was thankful for the company through the street and maze of a Medina in Marrakech.

The hostel was small and had a lemon tree growing in the middle, but the owner was kind and the complementary breakfast cooked by his wife was nicer than any I’ve received in the US. I left after breakfast to get the bus to the train station, but ran into a Canadian guy and got a taxi with him to the train station instead. Now, I’m in Rabat hanging out with my friend Callie in a cozy hotel room and one of the most comfortable beds I’ve encountered in quite some time. Her host mom welcomed me graciously and made us a wonderful dinner last nigh. Callie’s mom and her mom’s partner are also here, and it’s nice to have some company to go exploring with.

We visited a massive cemetery, the beach, and some great shops today, and I had to restrain myself from blowing  my budget on carefully crafted lanterns, ceramics, and customs shoes (I may go back for the shoes though). The fabrics and rugs here are so impressive and reasonably priced. Someday, I’ll return with an empty pack.

After I return from Morocco on November 24th, I’ll hang out in Dublin for a couple days before heading to Barcelona where I’ll spend 3 days ogling at beautiful things, I’m sure. Then, I’m headed to Reykjavik, Iceland, for three days where I’m hoping I’ll see the northern lights and a blue lagoon, but, by then, I’m going to be so broke I might just look around the city for a few days. After Iceland, I fly back to Dublin then catch another flight back to Chicago.

I don’t have much money. So, I’m going to buy groceries and cook as much as possible instead of buying food out, and I’m hoping to do some couch surfing instead of paying for hostels, but we shall see what I’m able to find! If you’re reading this and know of a place I could stay in Reykjavik, that would help me a great deal.