PASEO Program Adventure: Overview

Throughout the past two months, I’ve been living in Huanchaco, Peru, and even though my trip is officially over, I wanted to dedicate a post to the town I called home this past summer. 

“Huanchaco is a surfing and fishing village about 30 minutes north of Trujillo- the capital of the region, La Libertad, and the third biggest city in Peru. Huanchaco is best known for having waves that are surfable year-round and for it’s traditional ancient fishing methods using reed fishing boats called Caballitos de Totora. These boats data back 3,000 years and numerous festivals throughout the year celebrate this fishing culture.

The town of Huanchaco has about 5000 inhabitants, and is home to several shanty towns that are largely populated by migrants from the highlands. Many of these migrants came to the coastal region due to extensive flooding caused by the natural phenomenon El Niño in 1997/1998. In addition to the influx of migrants over the past twenty years, Huanchaco has also had a small but significant increase in the number of European expats living in the area. This population change is largely related to the increasing presence of international NGOs and international schools in the Trujillo area, as well as to the pleasant climate and laid-back lifestyle” (paseoprogram.com).

The peaceful and serene atmosphere in Huanchaco is truly unique and refreshing, and the locals are incredibly kind and welcoming. While it can be difficult adjusting to a new location in a different country, and while it can often be strange and uncomfortable calling another place your home, things are different in this town. In Huanchaco, home is exactly the word one would use to describe the sensation you experience while staying here.

Aside from being able to live in such a wonderful town, throughout this experience, I was fortunate enough to have made such great friends who truly enhanced the feeling of being home. Living and working in Peru alongside incredible individuals in such a beautiful country has been the experience of a lifetime, and one that I hope will take place again in the near future. (Stay tuned for more on that later). 

In the meantime (of course, until tomorrow), I’ll end on this note. It can absolutely be nerve-racking and even terrifying to pick up and move to a different country to pursue a new adventure. We don’t all need to make such drastic changes, but at least being open to new possibilities and adventures is truly important. A challenge that we can all work towards overcoming is not allowing our fears to overpower our desires to pursue new experiences. We never know what awaits us on the other side if we don’t take a leap of faith once in a while and try something new and exciting. 

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Barcelona, Spain: Catedral de Barcelona

The hop-on/hop-off bus dropped us off in the Barrio Gótico, also known as the Gothic Quarter. I’ll describe the Gothic Quarter more in depth in a later post, but as we walked around the area, we spotted the Catedral de Barcelona, also known as the Cathedral of Barcelona.

After waiting in line, we finally entered the Cathedral, which was absolutely stunning.  Construction for the Cathedral began during the 11th Century, but whatever had been built was destroyed by the Moors in 985. Construction began once again a little later on and the central part of the building was completed in the mid 1400’s. However, the building’s facade was not completed until the late 1800’s.

There are twenty nine side chapels within the church, one of which is said to contain a “miraculous crucifix,” which supposedly helped defeat the Turks during the Battle of Lepanto (http://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-cathedral-la-seu.html).

Some other interesting facts about the Cathedral include the fact that the Cathedral is dedicated to Santa Eulàlia, the patron saint of Barcelona. During the Roman period, Santa Eulàlia was tortured to death, and her body lies buried underneath the high altar. February 12th is dedicated to her, as locals celebrate a day of feasting in her memory.

On the side of the Cathedral, there is a beautiful Cloister with additional chapels, tranquil fountains, and beautiful landscaping. It has been said that from this area, you can hear nearby geese. Years ago, the geese supposedly “warned against intruders and thieves” (http://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-cathedral-la-seu.html).

There is a small elevator inside the Cathedral that takes visitors up to the rooftop. From there, we saw incredible views of the city from such a unique and special vantage point.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Christmas is a beautiful holiday celebrated by a countless number of individuals across the globe. Of course it is a significant holiday due to religious purposes, but what makes this day even more special is that it is one of the few times during the year where families come together to celebrate with one another. Not only this, but the holiday spirit brings people even closer together, and there is an overall joyous feeling that engulfs us all—regardless of our religious affiliations.

However, once the New Year rolls in and we quickly return to our routines, the festivity disappears, as does much of the joy we shared with one another just a few weeks/months prior. As the holidays pass, we pick up from where we last left off by consuming ourselves in political correctness and a continuous argument regarding which religion is superior and why the beliefs of others don’t matter. Before you know it, the closeness and connectedness that brought us all together is long gone—at least until the following December.

If we each took the time to realize that when you put aside our exteriors including our physical features, skin tones, and other such minute differences, we are all the same. Much of our beliefs and values are so similar, but for some reason we cannot take the time to listen to those around us and try to understand that there are a great deal of resemblances in our beliefs. If only we could live in a  world where “holiday cheer” was simply called “cheer,” and we allowed the joyous breeze that is seemingly only found during the holidays to run through the air all year long. Then the constant bickering, discrimination, and hatred that we see all over the news would lessen significantly, and maybe, just maybe, we could have a much easier time living in harmony.

As I posted a short while ago, Mother Teresa once said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” If we could each make it a goal to try and spread some of the “Holiday Cheer” throughout the following year, we might be able to help make this difference which would ultimately allow us to live in a better world.

While spending this beautiful holiday with loved ones, let us enjoy the special time we are sharing with each other. Let us also think about how to make improvements to the upcoming year we have ahead of us, so that we can continue to have as many memorable moments as possible. With that being said, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and may this year be filled with an abundance of joy, cheer, and love for one another!

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Day 2 In Bogotá, Colombia Continued: Museo Botero

Fernando Botero is one of Colombia’s most famous artists. Fortunately, we were able to take some time on our tour to explore his museum in Bogotá—Museo Botero.
Botero is known to paint individuals in a larger manner. He has explained that he paints voluminous people, not fat people. Specifically, he zooms in on their skin and not their facial features. He also doesn’t use models which is why so many of the people in his paintings look similar. One such painting that shows this is his version of the Mona Lisa, which is bigger in size and situated in front of the Andes.
One of the paintings pictured below shows a group of men, with only one of the men sleeping comfortably. This is because he is wearing a watch and to Botero, being in control of time represents power. If you notice, watches can be found in many of his paintings.
Fernando Botero donated much of his artwork to this museum, but had three conditions for doing so. The museum had to be free for everyone to enjoy, he wanted to display the artwork in the museum himself and place everything according to his personal preference, and the last condition was that the paintings could never leave this museum. With the conditions having been met, Botero donated 123 of his own paintings and other paintings that he possessed including many of Picasso’s pieces. In fact, Botero first started by painting artists whom he admired such as Picasso. Shortly thereafter, when Botero began painting other pieces, he painted a person with a guitar that had a smaller sized hole, but instead of calling this a mistake, he decided this would later become his style.
In the late 1970’s, Botero was driving with his son and second wife in Spain when they were involved in a terrible car accident. Botero’s son, Pedro, who was only a child, died in the accident. As a resulting injury of the accident, part of Botero’s finger was cut off. He later traveled to Italy and paid close attention to the sculptures throughout the country. Botero began sculpting because not only was it difficult to paint for some time after his accident, but because he was passionate about volume and knew that sculpting was a great way to give volume to his work. In addition to some of the various sculptures pictured below, you will notice a sculpture of a large hand, which is actually a sculpture of Botero’s hand.
Fernano Botero is the only living artist to sell a painting for over a million dollars, and his work is both enjoyed and celebrated throughout the world.

Mami Leo’s Legacy Will Always Live On

This past week was a very difficult one because the world lost an incredible human being on Sunday, March 8th. Whenever the medical mission team I volunteer with would go to Guatemala and stay at the orphanage Mami Leo founded nearly thirty years ago, she would remind us to not forget about the children upon our return to the states. Our group stayed at the home for only one week, twice a year, and that’s it. For the other 355 days in the year, Leonor Portela, who was more affectionately known as Mami Leo was at the home with the children by herself. Through the hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, and the days with no electricity, Mami Leo was there protecting her children. It takes a special person to dedicate her life just to provide a life for others, and that’s exactly what Mami Leo did.

I flew out to Guatemala City early Wednesday morning and arrived just in time for a beautiful mass held in her honor. The entire church was packed and there was not an empty seat in the building. Looking around the room and seeing just how many people Mami Leo has impacted throughout her life was an incredible sight, and knowing that this wasn’t even close to the amount of people she saved and inspired was even more incredible. The funeral procession commenced once the mass concluded, and it was just as difficult as you can imagine. When the funeral concluded, we drove to the orphanage in Sumpango, Sacatepequez where we all gathered around and talked, sharing stories of Mami Leo with one another.

We lined a bunch of tables next to one another and sat down for dinner in a long rectangular set-up. I sat by the center table, and as I looked to my left and right, a sense of peace overcame me. It was truly a beautiful sight; the table was filled with children of all ages who had been saved by Mami Leo (some of whom are pictured below). Even young adults who no longer live in the home came back to spend time with Memo Leo before her passing, and celebrate her life following this terrible loss. In looking around and taking in the surrounding environment, I realized the true impact of Mami Leo’s life work. Some of the people sitting at the table were among the first few children Mami Leo took in years ago, and they were sitting here with children of their own whom you can tell are provided with unconditional love and support.

The love that Mami Leo gave to her children has been carried on to their own children, and Mami Leo has successfully helped them break the chain of abuse, neglect, and abandonment in Guatemala. They are well-integrated members of society, many in Guatemala, and some in the United States. And what is just as special is the fact that they all still treasure where they come from, the beautiful home Mami Leo took them into, Misioneros Del Camino.

So while we mourn a tragic loss of what I truly believe is a one of a kind saint, we also rejoice in knowing that Mami Leo’s legacy isn’t going anywhere. We can all come together to help fulfill her mission and dream of providing love and support to such children in need, and more importantly, we will never forget Mami Leo, her work, or the thousands of children whom she is survived by. And as she once said, plain and simply, “If you don’t dream, you’ll never make it.” Descansa en paz Mami Leo.

Three-Year Blogiversary

I attended the Writer’s Digest Conference three years ago, with hopes of successfully pitching a book that I had written to some of the top literary agents in the country. One of the biggest pieces of feedback I received was that I needed to create a bigger social media platform, and that one of the best ways to do that was to begin blogging. I tried to explain that I didn’t have much to talk about, and even when I did, I’ve always had better success getting a response from myself in the mirror than from other people. (That was a joke, in case you were concerned…)

I created my blog and tried to incorporate as many interesting aspects as I possible could. Between poetry, posts on achieving happiness, traveling experiences, and daily journeys, I had hoped that I could maintain the interest of just a few fellow bloggers, or at least my mother. Well, here we are three years, over 500 followers, and 101 posts later. I couldn’t have made it this far without each and every one of you, and I truly mean it.

A little inspiration goes a long way and I was hoping to help inspire any and all followers that would be joining me on my blogging experience. Little did I realize though, that within these few years, my fellow bloggers would be the ones inspiring me. You have all inspired me through your blog posts, comments on my posts, pushes to continue writing, and especially through your encouragement and motivation to not only make me a better person and writer, but a better blogger as well. And to be quite honest, that is more than anything I could have ever imagined or asked for, and for that, on this three-year blogiversary, I’d like to celebrate with all of you.

I ask that you help me celebrate my blogiversary by commenting with the link to your blogs so that others can follow you all as well. My fellow bloggers have opened so many doors for me, so I’d like to try to help open at least one for you. And with that, I’d like to make a toast to my fellow bloggers for helping me make it this far and for welcoming me with open arms into the world of blogging. If you want to treat yourself to some cake or champagne, by all means help yourself so that we can really get the celebration going! (The best part of an online party is that I don’t have to supply the food or drinks and you don’t have to supply the presents!) I hope that this experience continues for years to come, especially so that I don’t have to go back to talking to myself in the mirror. (Again, a joke.)

It’s About That Time

It’s about that time to take out the champagne,
And begin to celebrate the New Year’s campaign.
This festive time is enjoyed by all,
Especially the dropping of the Times Square ball.

It’s about that time to write our New Year’s resolutions,
And patch up our conflicts by finding solutions.
Sending last-minute love to family and friends,
To end the year on a good note; a period of self-cleanse.

It’s about that time to enjoy the upcoming celebrations,
And live this next year more relaxed, free of frustrations.
Embrace this new year and make the most of each and every day,
And try to be the best you can possibly be, in every single way.

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