How can I respectively decline gifts from my neighbors in Pena Blanca? How can I explain that we are trying to live independently when Don Augustin and his son Carlos come to our door with smiles from ear to ear and a blanket in arms? The generosity and genuine willingness of these Mayan families to welcome us into their community has astounded me. The one thing more surprising has been their ability to anticipate our every need at the perfect time.

On the first night, the four of us crowded around our small firepit, situated in the middle of our house, desperately trying to apply every camping and boy scout trick we had collectively accumulated over the years to start a fire with wet wood. As the failed attempts continued to mount, Carlos turned up, pulled a small bundle of pine wood out of his pocket and gave it to us. We later learned that every family uses this local pine tree to start fires because it has a very flammable coat of sap. Late that night, after hours of cooking a batch of resiliently hard beans, we were left stumbling around our smoke filled house in the dark. Once again, right in time, Carlos turned up with a candle in hand so that we could find our bowls, eat something after the long first day, and set up blankets to sleep on. His actions have made me consider the likelihood that a 13-year-old kid from the US (including myself) would turn off the Xbox and take the time to walk a complete stranger 30 minutes to find wood, or to continually make sure that they were settling in alright.

                Instead of isolating ourselves from the community and disrespectfully rejecting these well-intentioned presents, we have given back through our manual labor and gifts to the children. On Sunday, after a few hours of tilling the fields, Zach and I wandered up the hill to give Carlos a box of crayons for all his help. He rushed towards us and gave us each a giant bear hug, an action not common in Mayan culture. Seeing his eyes light up at the sight of the present, all for him, made me want to give everything I had. It’s simple and makes you feel so good to just give charity; and I wish it was that easy. Unfortunately it is not sustainable in the long term, so we are applying our drive to give towards our research on bettering access to financial services.

              I have never blogged before, so am not sure if anyone is interested, but I wanted to end this post with some personal reflection. The experience so far has pushed me in ways I anticipated, but could not imagine before coming. The combination of our difficult sleeping arrangements (two blankets on a straw mat) and our inability, to-date, of budgeting effectively enough to afford a complete diet, occasionally imparts feelings of stress and lethargy on the group. We have been unlucky the past three days, and have only received 1 dollar of income amongst the 4 four of us, an occurrence we did not plan for. (On the bright side though, it means more money in the future)

As it is still so early, my mind can´t help but wander home to creature comforts and home cooked meals. I don´t want this to come across as too glum though, as the hard times are spurring welcomed thoughts and a unique perspective. I am fortunate enough, that my life at home is one of constant amusement, action, and comfort. If I am ever bored or feeling down, I simply wander to the kitchen to eat something, surf the internet, watch TV, have a drink, play tennis, or drive to meet a friend. And those are only a few, as we have infinite opportunities for amusement. Is it these actions and comforts that bring us happiness though? Or do they allow us to mask our unhappiness and hide from our thoughts? During the day here, if I get down or uncomfortable, I notice how many fewer options I have to distract myself, so I am forced to just sit and hang out with my own thoughts. I am welcoming the challenge though, as with it comes the time to come to terms with my thoughts, to read, to stretch, to focus on my breathing, and to simply observe. This project has personally given me the opportunity to learn patience, counter entitlement, gain strength of spirit and build confidence in myself in a way that will never leave me. Now I can only hope and try to dig up the will to make the most of the opportunities.

In an attempt to reassure my mother, I am happy and the majority of the times are definitely good times. I have time to read (steadily working through the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), to work on our research, to play with the little kids, speak Spanish with the neighbors, to farm our land, and cook over the open fire. It feels authentic and freeing in a way that is difficult to replicate in the globalized world of text messaging and opportunity cost.

Most importantly though, there has been no sign of the puppies since our first day. I know, I hate Zach too. Thank you all for your malicious attacks on him, as he deserves them all. My newest plan is to save up and buy a chicken (named Harold) so that we can have a productive pet that creates both food and fertilizer… Thoughts?

                Mi familia(novia incluido) y mis amigos, I love you all, miss you and dearly hope that you have an incredible and fulfilling summer. Thanks for reading.

Quote of the trip so far: “The further we fall, the longer our roots will grow” - Ryan
Weezy F Brown
6/22/2010 18:21:11

Temptation---

Wow. I must say I'm incredibly proud to count you and Zach as some of my best friends; you are so right about those daily activities allowing us to hide from our thoughts, and the whole 'focus on breathing' is altogether pretty zen. On a different note, I just finished the girl with the dragon tattoo...its kinda nuts. Hope you guys are gettin to watch some world cup down there, and keep your accountability game up.

W

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WRR
6/24/2010 00:41:59

Templeton,
I echo the sentiments of Willy Brown, I hope that you're pulling through the hardest parts because I know this is gonna be a sick experience for you, also +1 on the U-S of A tearing up the soccer.
Keep it up buddy,
Rubs

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mireille
6/24/2010 03:10:37

Christopher,
All of this sounds incredible and although I have no way to relate to what your going through, I am so proud of you and always here for you!
I'm so excited that I get to read your blog and know what your up to...
I miss you lots but am holding up alright.
Keep going and I can't wait to hear more.
Sorry that this is sappy for everyone else reading, but this is the only way i can talk to him!!
I love you Chris.
-Mireille

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Chris
6/25/2010 04:13:57

Thanks for your thoughts!
Just reading these messages brought a huge smile to my face and comfort to my mind. Ill keep on truckin, dabblng in some zen-like activities, accounting for every cent, and supporting the good old US of A. Of course the first thing Zach and I did was trek through the mountains befriending locals in search of the world cup... We are watching, have njo fear.
And thank you so much for my sappy message baby girl! I love you too.
- Templeton

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5/10/2012 15:36:57

The post is absolutely fantastic! Lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need! Also like to admire the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer! I will bookmark your blog and have my children check up here often.

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