So, why does the Dragoness emit verbal “selfies” instead of playing Candy Crush Saga?

I am still so full of opinions and meddlesome advices that if I did not write I would certainly seethe in my dotage. However, I live in a place where I had to learn a new language or two and I am amazed when I can transmit a thought. My artistic friends are as fun and fashionable as ever but …they happen to be indigenous Mayans – not New Yorkers.

This blog began life as a black box beaming back coordinates to a distant (receding) base. But the longer I drifted the more it became a message in a bottle – navigating flotsam and dolphins. Maybe I have given up on being rescued and hope to leave a trace… an actionable trace, please.

I am still so full of opinions and meddlesome advices that if I did not write I would certainly seethe in my dotage. However, I live in a place where I had to learn a new language or two and I am amazed when I can transmit a thought. My artistic friends are as fun and fashionable as ever but …they happen to be indigenous Mayans – not New Yorkers.

Swapping the Hudson for Lake Atitlan was shocking and necessary. For enough reasons, I could not afford to live in the US in the post 9/11 economy. In the weeks before I left, I fixated on the Deep Water Horizon oil spill. I can’t say how many day/nights I sat switching though the multiple cameras on the BP website and watching the robots dance even as the engineers failed. In that hot summer I would force myself out to walk 10,000 steps as I must and then, rush back to the danse macabre in progress. It was matricide live and in real time. So, when a friend responded to my request with a hook up to a volunteer opportunity in Guatemala I was on the plane in less than 24 hours. That was five years ago.

It turned out that the whole place was blooming with opportunities. But, the party did not begin until Rosa figured out how to use me. She began modestly. I would meet with 15 local kids on Saturdays. In the shortest time, they grew to be teens but Rosa has more…looks like more than 500 in three villages. Yes, she will keep me busy until they put the lid down and it is for this that I write, fume and ruminate. Go ahead, open the bottle.
Este blog nació como un cuadro negro radiante volver coordina a un (retroceso) de base distante. Pero cuanto más tiempo me quedaba más se convirtió en un mensaje en una botella – navegar restos y delfines. Tal vez he renunciado a ser rescatados y espero dejar una huella … una traza procesable, por favor.

Todavía estoy tan lleno de opiniones y consejos entrometidos que si yo no escribí Sin duda bullir en mi senectud.

Yo vivo en un lugar donde tuve que aprender un nuevo idioma o dos y me asombro cuando puedo transmitir un pensamiento. Mis amigos artísticas son tan divertido y de moda como siempre, pero … que se encuentren indígenas mayas – no los neoyorquinos.

Intercambiar el Hudson para el Lago de Atitlán fue impactante y necesaria. Por razones suficientes, no podía permitirse el lujo de vivir en los EE.UU. en la economía post 9/11. En las semanas antes de irme, obsesionado con el derrame de petróleo de Deep Water Horizon. No puedo decir cuántos días / noches me senté cambiar aunque las múltiples cámaras en el sitio web de BP y viendo los robots bailan incluso como los ingenieros fallaron. En ese verano caliente me obligarme a caminar 10.000 pasos que debo y luego, lanzas de nuevo a la danza macabra en progreso. Fue matricidio en vivo y en tiempo real. Así, cuando un amigo respondió a mi solicitud con un gancho a una oportunidad de voluntariado en Guatemala que estaba en el avión en menos de 24 horas. Eso fue hace cinco años.

Resultó que todo el lugar estaba floreciendo con oportunidades. Pero, el partido no comenzó hasta Rosa descubrió cómo me use. Ella comenzó modestamente. Me encontraría con 15 niños de la localidad los sábados. En el menor tiempo, que creció hasta convertirse en adolescentes pero Rosa tiene más … se parece a más de 500 en tres pueblos. Sí, ella me mantendrá ocupado hasta que pusieron la tapa hacia abajo y es por esta causa que escribo, humos y rumiar. Vaya por delante, abrir la botella.

Easter in the Mayan Highlands

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” title=”Easter in the Mayan Highlands”>Easter in the Mayan Highlands

Last week was Easter.  Up here there were glorious displays of carpets all over the streets.. Rather than go to Antigua and be carried hand-over-hand..We took in the local celebrations 

Disaster Risk Management in Solola Guatemala

Disaster Risk Management in Solola Guatemala

White Paper submitted in partial fulfillment of World Bank Disaster Risk Management Course based on Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA.) It is a preliminary step twards rolling out workshops for Mayan Women and Children.

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Women looking at what's left of the foot bridge
Women looking at what’s left of the foot bridge

White Paper submitted in partial fulfillment of World Bank Disaster Risk Management Course based on Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA.)
It is preliminary to rolling out workshops for Mayan Women and Children.

grade school take another hit
grade school take another hit


Amalia and the earth movers
Amalia and the earth movers


Brigade waits for instruments.
Brigade waits for instruments.

Guatemala Not Likely to Benefit from USAID’s Water and Development Strategy for 2013-18

The flags on the capital were at half-staff for Monday’s Oklahoma tornado victims as I began circling the Old Senate Office Building looking for where to go in. Three quarters around I came upon a queue of dyspeptic government types. But, directly in front of me there was a young man, who had a flyer that let me know he was also bound for the USAID Press Conference.

“What is your mission to the Water Policy meeting?” I inquired nodding to the paper in his hand.

“Oh,” he said brightly “I am from BIG-Name-Brand-NGO and happened to be in the Capital this week; so, I thought I would go.


“I am a volunteer looking for new ways to fund sanitation projects with ‘Charitable Bonds” in Guatemala.”

“Are there such things?” he asked.

“Not exactly… My Wall Street ‘Source’ told me that the Nature Conservancy of New York and Rudolf Steiner Foundation had recently funded land buys and school construction. And, she allowed that, in this economy, public private/partnerships are a necessary trend in municipal funding.  And, she thought that an entity like USAID or the Canadian CIDA might guarantee the Bonds instead of forcing the NGO to put their own Balance Sheet on the line.  She cautioned me that a big hump for NGO’s is the cost of filing because underwriting a Bond Issue and selling in all states it is an expensive proposition.

He asked me which NGO’s I was tracking in Guatemala and then he told me, cryptically, that USAID was only giving out “IQC’s.”  As we made our way to the coffered, gold leafed, chamber he explained that small NGOS would probably have to band together and form consortium in order to even be considered for an Indefinite Quantity Contract. These contracts are only awarded to giant NGO’s because they are able to deliver the minimum and can live with a capped contract since it promises them the follow along work if there is any.

USAID’s initiative was driven by the Senator Paul Simon 2005 Water for the Poor Act that made water management part of Foreign Policy.  Undersecretary of State, Robert Hormats told us that “State Failure” can follow from short sighted water policy. This is a real “security issue;” particularly in a time of crisis like drought or flooding.  Mr. Hormats said that for every $1 spent for sanitation $9.00 worth of value accrued.  Speakers would tell of the global strategy with two concrete and specific goals:  First, water for health – give communities access; and, second, water for food.  Policies will support “climate smart” strategies for agriculture going forward. USAID will now  be using “evidence based approaches” and measuring results.  There are 2.5 million people living without sanitation.  USAID was proud of the innovation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and thanked them for their partnership with “entrepreneurial projects” like the Foundation’s Toilet Challenge.   Coca Cola was also praised for its “new way of working” with USAID.

Women and the time they loose and dangers they face came up in three speeches.

“Women waste 200 million hours gathering water,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the “Global Water Coordinator.”

“Two thirds of the world population is in water distress and we are seven billion people heading for nine by mid-century.”

There were photos and stories of projects in Africa, India and Haiti but not one mentioned Central America.

One speaker would let us know that, “Not all resources are given to ‘strategic countries.’”

Another would tell us that the budget for USAID is less than 1% of the Federal Budget.  And so, I began to wonder if any little NGO’s would participate in USAID’s Development and Innovations Program.   And, when, I looked into what measures favored the Euphrates Valley over, say, Motagua it seems that the politics of the country and the attitude of the local leadership play a large part in determining which countries are favored.  Perhaps, this explains why Guatemala has not been a USAID priority and, more importantly it predicts why that status is not likely to change.senator DC


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Mayan Temples – Tikal

Rolled out of San Ignatio-town by 9:30 under unraveling fog.
Light diffused over jungle marshes. Grasses and occasional trees provided breakfast spots for skinny livestock on both sides of the frontier. Speed bumps announced tiendas or schools for the next 150 or so miles to Remate, Flores. A sharp turn off the main road leads down to Lake Petén Itzá.

I arrived at the shore before noon and checked into la Casa de Don David – a tidy understated retreat less than 45 minutes from Tikal. The family owned place supports the Tikal bound by arranging transport, preparing a lunch and even serving 5:30AM coffee. Casa DD definitely goes out of their way to take the “grim” out of pilgrimage; so, I decided to return after my visit to the park to unwind by the lake.

I had packed a 7 pound-ish backpack with stuff for overnight at the Jaguar Inn. With my sack of lunch and water, I boarded the shuttle towards Tikal in the dark. — The driver continued filling the van while everyone snoozed.

Just before sun up twenty of us fanned out scrabbling up the hill towards the Gran Plaza and the view from Temple IV. The sign pointed the way and estimated 25 minutes. The risers of the steps were sometimes 12″-15″ boards and the treads were filled gravel and sea-serpent roots and sometimes cement was over that.

Up now, on a lesser incline still under thick tree canopy – stairs peek out of moss; towers make an appearance but ensnared in eons of flora. It is hard to discern form or exuberance from these muffled lumps. But, the plaza glows with ferocious mystery. The cognoscenti were still climbing towards Temple IV. People atop Temple IV were speculating about how baby sacrifices for the Mayans would be a high honor like suicide bombers in the Mid East.

It was backing down those stairs that I realized that the pack was not only getting heavy but did not help my balance. Looking down over the
tread-ways, I kept wondering how life would have been in this city. Would people have run from alter to temple and then been carried back by native bearers for a change of clothes before the human sacrifices? Was there a life for the Artisans and was this like Greenwich Village where the rich and the artists party together?

I ate my sandwich and watched the monkeys before heading to the “Mundo Perdido.” (That sign seems oxymoronic.) I loved this area with the giant 5C-54 looking all streamlined and Art Deco and 5C-49 with horizontal frames stepping up astride the stairs. By the time I got to Temple VI with another 10 story climb my eyes were heavier than the pack. So, I headed down and napped in my hammock at the Jaguar Inn until it was time to return for the 19JAN full moon, to honor the 50th Yahrtzeit of my father.

The moon rose over Temple I’s shoulder lighting Temple II beautifully. In this clearing I could almost feel the moon and the nearness of cherished spirits.

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