Seven kilometers in, “it’s not so bad” I mumbled as I cradled my camera in my left arm and grasped my hip strap with the right hand. This helped alleviate pressure from my shoulders and forced my back straight. We were almost half way. “Eight more to go,” Kim checked her GPS. The pack was heavy, likely around fifty pounds (27 kg).  Mine was lighter.  We had already crossed three rivers. One of which we removed our shoes. The glacier water numbed our feet. For the next ten minutes I forgot about the brewing blisters on my ankle. Moleskin had delayed this inevitable fate. I’d always gone for runners instead of these clunky hiking boots. I remembered why, but this time I had no choice.

The last eight kilometers reminded me of Nepal. The hard days when your body just doesn’t want to move but you keep going because you have no choice. One foot in front of the other. There was barely an incline, yet I wished I had done more squats.  I looked up from my feet, and saw tents. We had made it. I kicked off the shoes, helped set up tent and crashed.

The next day, we hiked up to the viewpoint. It was then that I remembered why I love to do this.  We sat at the top catching up on life, devouring our cucumber hummus sandwiches and homemade granola bars, and reminiscing on our travels together. It was just us and the falls.

I am Mayan Lord Chocolate. With one palm up and one palm down, I sat there on the stone throne looking out at the ruins. I could sense the grandeur and once admirable power.  Tikal was the capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms of ancient Maya.

Walking past the first pyramid, multiple hills lined the path. They weren’t hills; they were unexcavated pyramids covered by trees, grass, and possibly weakened by roots.

We watched as the sun set behind the tall jungle that represented how long the ruins had been abandoned for. I was again reminded of its vastness. The park stretches into Belize and Mexico.  A childhood poem popped in my head.

Ozymandias
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear –
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Portraits from Guatemala

The little girl in a pink “so loved” shirt started crying when we were buying vegetables from her mother. I crouched down trying to comfort her.

“It’s okay. Don’t cry.”

It didn’t matter what I said; she wouldn’t understand. She spoke Spanish and I spoke English. I hoped that at least my tone would provide some sort of reassurance that we weren’t scary monsters. Instead she stared blankly at my camera.  So I held it up.

“Would you like a photo?”

She seemed confused, but I took a shot anyways. She smiled then held the camera and proceeded to laugh  when she saw herself. I couldn’t help but feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Churros

Craving churros after returning from Guatemala. Here‘s the recipe.

For the chocolate dip, use as much chocolate as you like, pour enough milk just to cover it, and microwave it for 30 seconds until the milk is warm enough to melt the chocolate. Mix until smooth.

Vela Luka, Korcula from below

My skin is itching. The wet suit clings tightly against my skin. I can’t sit still.

Regulator in mouth- check. Waist belt, right-handed release-check. Hands on both – check. 5-4-3-2-1. I roll back. Slightly disoriented, I pop up to the surface and the boat rolls away. My brain tells me to hold my breathe. Slowly, I sink as I release air out of my BCD.

The turtle swims away and I scream with excitement only to hear a soft screech and watch bubbles stream out of my mouth. That moment you realize you’re breathing underwater, that moment where you know you’ve entered a new world, the one where we’ve been taught to be afraid because you could drown. No fear.  I breathe intently sending air into parts of my lungs that I never knew existed. Take that airway, I finally feel energized.  That’s it, I am hooked. So this is how it’s like to be Little Mermaid.

Diving in Vela Luka from Joanne Chui on Vimeo.

Dive Locations: Blue Hole, Emmental, Danne’s Cove

Dive Operator: Croatia Divers

Kanyawegi, Kenya/ June 28, 2012

Past Obambo market, up the hill, and through maize fields, Maurice led us through people’s backyards as he waved and greeted everyone. There wasn’t a single person that he didn’t know the name to. It was my second time in the village yet I hadn’t visited anyone’s homes. Each family welcomed us with fried fish; we ate it all (even the head). We were meeting with Barak . He was hired to grow seedlings for the Sac Garden project. 




Barak, Farmer