This week’s dose of Sweet Thursday!
She’s one of the sweetest of all the sweets, we’d say, and a great friend. Holley, you are amazing: always positive, incredibly dedicated, stunning of course, and as this interview shows, smart as hell. Come back to Guatemala soon. We miss you.
1. What is your favorite place in Guatemala? Why?
I am a bit torn on whether or not to indulge information regarding my favorite place in Guatemala. 😉 On the one hand, I love the idea of sharing its splendor with others, but at the same time one of the things I love about it is that it remains mostly undiscovered, tranquil and pristine because there isn’t a load of foot traffic tromping through it. Unbeknownst to most of the sunbathers and swimmers at the El Pilar pools, there is a trail leading out the back of the park through a gorgeous and well-kept nature reserve that includes about 2km of hiking trail through flourishing country, dotted with strange mushrooms, vibrant flowers, and an incredible array of bird life. At the base of the trail is a hummingbird garden, where I used to love to sit with a couple of my girl friends and enjoy a picnic lunch while we marveled at the spectrum of bejeweled creatures whizzing around the feeders and hibiscus bushes. It’s an easy walk from the center of Antigua, and may be one of the few places where one can appreciate the remarkable, lush ecology of Guatemala as it must have once been before we came along – there’s no rumbling of chicken buses spewing diesel smoke, just birdsong and fresh air. A perfect escape.
2. So you’re a bird lover… so are we! (Have you noticed our collections are birds?) What’s your favorite bird?
Oh the names of your product lines had certainly not escaped my notice. 😉 I seem to have built up a bit of a reputation as a bird nerd around Antigua, haven’t I? Well, I suppose I am flattered. Something about birds – they occupy such a broad and vibrant pallet across the dazzling kaleidoscope of nature with their incredible array of sizes, shapes, colors, patterns, and voices. They are remarkable creatures; each with their own song to sing, and so lucky as to have the gift of flight! What I wouldn’t give to be able to sing and fly and wear such glorious, shimmering colors every day. Choosing a favorite is like having to pick a single star from the galaxy, but I do very much admire the albatross for the remarkable life it leads (hence the tattoo!). I think you and I got to talking about them, the largest flying bird in the world, and about how they dance! I see something of myself in their pattern of living: going away and off to sea on their own, traveling for months on end without ever seeing home or family – and yet, always finding their way back to the same place when the time comes, somehow knowing just when it is the right moment to return.
3. We know you were doing some grassroots community work in rural Guatemala. What was that like, as a young girl from the US?
Phew, well, life in rural Guatemala. As you figured, I could easily write a full essay on the myriad of experiences gleaned from living on my own up in the Cuchumatanes while doing development work, but I’ll try to condense it for you here. I will say that folks who come to Guatemala and just stick to the familiar tourist circuit – Antigua, Lago Atitlan, Semuc Champey, and Tikal – well, they barely scratch the surface of the multitude of complex, textured layers that comprise this country. Living for a year in a “typical” village up in Huehuetenango was incredible, challenging, formative, compelling, and enlightening. It was often truly difficult – feeling isolated, not just because of language barriers and my light skin, but coming from a background that contrasted so starkly with that of everyone around me. Even more challenging was feeling powerless in the face of some truly monstrous issues that constructed everyday reality: extreme poverty, hunger, environmental degradation, ignorance, gender discrimination and abuse, violence, and corruption. But, of course, that’s exactly why I was there. And that was the amazing part of it – everything I learned, the relationships I formed, the beautiful textures and colors and smells and sounds of la vida guatemalteca. I believe that we, as outsiders, can only be effective to a certain point in combating the multifaceted exigencies of poverty if we have never lived alongside it, no matter how noble our intentions or loving our hearts. And I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to have been there. While I still could never claim to truly empathize with what it is like to be sincerely impoverished, there were a number of little things – going days on end without electricity sometimes, having to wash clothes on a washboard, having to hike for miles to get to a village because there were no roads – that helped form a sympathetic mind-frame and context that kept my avidity for the work burning, and helped ensure that our projects were meaningful and our relationships deep. I learned that I was not as strong as I imagined myself to be, but that perhaps in admitting the gaps in my knowledge and character, I was better positioned to let the environment and people around me teach me what was truly needed, important, and purposeful. I will take that experience with me forward, ingrained into my perception of the world, and hopefully never fail to apply it to the work I do in the future. Perhaps that’s all a bit cheesy, but you’re catching me right in that post-landing reflective period! I also learned how to make some delicious black beans, to boot. 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to write to us, Holley. You look great in your Macaw Boots!