Five Things To Know About House Sitting   3 comments

Much has been written about house stilling as a way to see the world.  There are books, articles and even websites, containing house sitting opportunities around the world.  Generally there is no pay for the house sitter(s) unless there are tasks other than house sitting that come with the assignment.  I once saw an assignment in the south of Portugal. They wanted someone who had service experience to care for their small inn and were willing to pay a small salary.  Most of the time what is required or expected of the house sitter comes in exchange for the ability to stay in a place without paying rent.

I, myself, am currently “house sitting” in the mountains on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

The house is in the mountains, just east of the town of Portalon, which lies between Quepos/Manuel Antonio and Dominical.  All three are fairly well-known for being havens for naturalist tourists,especially those that like to ride the almost constant surf that graces the Pacific shores of Costa Rica.

Nearby, there are beaches, jungles to hike, deep-sea fishing, horses to ride, rivers to raft, tree tops to traverse, wildlife to watch and endless gorgeous sunsets to see.

A paradise to live in, right?Absolutely!

Costa Rica is a hot destination place for people from all over the world.  There were 86 applicants for this house witting assignment.  There would probably have been more if the assignment was not for just over five months, August 1 until January 4. But I imagine that not many people can be gone from their lives for 5 months. Though I imagine more wish they could.  I am blessed to have sufficient income and time.  The work I do, readying my book, High School Is Not Enough, for publication can be done from anyplace.

This is my first house sitting assignment.  So, I was wide-eyed about coming here. Let me offer that the old adage, there is no such thing as a free lunch holds to be true for house sitting. Here are some things I’ve learned.

1)      There is a cost to house sitting.  And I am not just talking about the transportation to get there and back, which also is generally not paid by the people who own the house.  I am in the rain forest of Costa Rica.  The nearest store is almost two kilometers down the hill.  The nearest store with a variety of meats, fish and produce is about 25 kilometers away.  There are no buses that come up here.  I imagine taxis would come but it would be expensive and they would hate it.  You really need a 4X4 to get to the house from the main road.  I decided to bring a car (1999 Toyota RAV 4) from the United States.  The car cost me $5000.  The import tax/duty (Costa Rica is really ridiculous in what you have to pay) was just over $2000.  Shipping was $600.  And assorted registration, title and other fees were $500.  A total of $8100, without factoring in the cost of gasoline here in Costa Rica.  Now my case is a little extreme.  But seeing as though I am going to be here for over five months it was the most cost-effective option for me.  What I am offering is that transportation costs. Whether it is by bus, taxi, rental car or other means the house sitting assignment will be in another country.  Knowing what it will take, and how much it will cost, to get around should be a part of the consideration in where people apply.

2)      Get care and maintenance instructions in writing. The people for whom I am house sitting left me notes about the care and operation of their home.  I am very grateful for this.  Pool maintenance; the best time to wash clothes saving on electricity; what to do if the lights go out; which wildlife are not to be tolerated; when is trash and recycling pick-up; and more, means there is something to do every day to care for their home.  Having what needs to be done explained, explicitly, is a good thing.  I would suggest that everyone get it in writing.  It makes it so much easier.  For them to return and feel like their home has been well maintained starts with how clear they are about taking care of their property.

3)      Get an orientation.  I arrived here, to the house, at 4 p.m. on July 31.  They left on August 1.  In hindsight, I wish we had more time together.  Having an orientation is critical to successfully caring for someone else’s property. We did have time for a walk through, even practiced cleaning the pool.  Knowing where things are is really secondary to knowing what the owner really cares about regarding the care of their home.  And the way to really know that is to hear it and see their eyes when they talk about it.  This past week some “leaf cutter” ants got to the hibiscus hedge.  From our time together, I knew that this hedge was something they wanted to protect.  When I could not find the refill for the ant killing spray,  I called.  We worked it out and I took care of the ants.

4)      Get contact numbers. I am sure that every owner will tell a house sitter how to get in touch with them in care of emergency – or hedge eating ants.  What I really like that the owners did for me was to arrange that I meet neighbors, the security guards, and the owners of their development.  Those introductions told everyone that I am supposed to be here.  What they also left me were telephone numbers to the cable company, the utility company, their doctor, emergency medical services, and local police.  I hope that I will never need any of these services, but it is good to know where things are just in case.  Actually, I did make an appointment to meet the doctor.  I was getting over a sinus problem.  I also thought that introducing myself was not a bad idea.  It was not.  He gave me his cell number and made sure that I knew he was available should I need him. I liked that.  I also learned about a reliable car mechanic from one of the neighbors the owner introduced me to.  I hope I don’t need him either.

5)      Get them to show you where things are.  Generally, people want to have a certain lifestyle while they are house sitting.  Whether it is exploring restaurants, nightlife, hiking trails, beaches, museums or other activities most people travel to other countries to experience that part of the world.  I wanted to come to Costa Rica because I have traveled here a lot over the past six years.  Though most of them live in San Jose, about 3 hours away, I have friends here.  What I did not know was this part of Costa Rica.  The owners took me around, showing me other communities, the grocery story, the farmers market, the cable company office, restaurants, beaches, and more.  Having a tour was nice.  Its better when someone who knows shows and gives you the background info.

Again, my assignment is a bit unique.  It allows me to be in a great house in a country I love.  And as I consider living in Costa Rica, this works really well for me.

Aside from all of the positive things about house sitting this is a responsibility.  It is a job, a job that is paid for by barter.  One exchanges their attention and labor for the opportunity to live rent free.  Take it seriously, and enjoy.

PS. This house is FOR SALE…….

Posted September 2, 2012 by Wayne in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Sunday In Qingdao, China   3 comments

Now some people may ask why come to this part of China.  I mean other than being kind of China’s epicenter for most things that have to do with the sea, what would bring me here is the question that many people have asked.  Well, I traveled to Qingdao for two reasons.  The first, as I have admitted many times I am curious.  I am the proverbial curious cat.  I love off the beaten track places.  Once I heard the name of the city, saw the photos and read the description I wanted to go there.   Now the other reason is a little more complicated.

I had met Blessing online; on one of those international dating websites that cater to people who want to date and mate across cultures.  She was pretty, smart, a business woman, the right age and spoke English.  I remember thinking, Blessing – was that an omen or what?  Since our meeting, we trailed each other almost every day for months; emails, photos, disclosures about life and sharing our philosophies about living.  We talked on SKYPE, live chatted on msn and I found myself wanting to know – could one really fall in love with someone you only knew through your computer?  Yikes!!!!

The possibility of meeting Blessing only provided comfort to a decision that had already been made.  I had wanted to go to China for years, but never had the time.  No, never took the time to go.  My sister had gone last year.  Her visit made me want to go more.  After talking to my sister, who went last year, about the visa application process, we both used Travel Document Systems (TDS), which turned out to be an excellent service, I took to leap.  You send your passport, the China visa application form (available on the Chinese Embassy website) and the fee to TDS and they take care of the rest.

I must admit I was surprised when the Chinese embassy not only approved my visa application, but also gave me unlimited visits for a 12 month period.  Usually they only give applicants for tourist visas one or two visits during a 90 or at most 180 day window.  It made me wonder whether about Blessing’s name as someone I was going to visit had anything to do with it.  Her now deceased father had been a party official.  It also made me a little nervous.

But, as the time approached for me to depart for China, our conversations became increasingly distant.  Just the opposite of what I thought, and certainly wanted to happen.  The excitement of meeting for the first time; thoughts of spending time together; and all of the problem solving avoidance that can go with romance across cultures had drifted into a gulf that I felt was growing between us.  Our conversations were consumed by her family problems.  She was turning her business over to the people who worked for her.  Her life was being turned upside down and health problems followed.  All of which became the focal point of our conversations.

As my train arrived in Qingdao, I had no idea of whether I would see Blessing.  I came with hopes – I am optimistic that way.  But I did not let myself count on it.  I am also realistic that way.  I, along with what seemed to be a football stadium full of people escaped the train to climb a long steady incline though the station to the mass of people waiting, vending, and hanging out in the sunlight on the other side of the station’s doors.  I had arrived and nobody knew it.

English is spoken by a few people in China, mostly in the cities.  And that includes written English.  I caught a break arriving in Qingdao as the one of the guys who saw the look of “I am really confused” on my face helped me negotiate a taxi to my hotel.  We wrestled to put my oversized bag in this gasoline smelling old three wheel vehicle driven by one of the nicest people who I met on my trip to China.  She spoke no English but went out of her way to make sure that I knew I was in good hands, even if I was sure that her care was very safe.

After three days of no response from Blessing to my emails or calls, I wrote the following email to her.

“It is obvious that I will not see you this trip. I do want to thank you for introducing me to Qingdao.  I have had the most amazing day of my trip to your wonderful country.  I am just very sad that you were not here to share it with me.



I had just walked the boardwalk, as I had done several times before about 5 kilometers, perhaps hoping that this would be the day I would see Blessing there.  Qingdao possesses one of the most social beaches that I have been on in a long time.  Qingdao is a family city.  And though the city itself is about 9 million people, the beach and boardwalk on Sundays is a comfortable place to walk, eat, play, exercise and people watch.   As on this day, like all of the other days I walked the board walk, I was the only person that I saw that looked like me.  Not another man with chocolate-brown skin in sight.  Most ignored this minor oddity.  Many smiled. A few wanted to take pictures with me.  And some stopped to chat.  I had grown comfortable in Qingdao pretty quickly.  And Qingdao had grown comfortable with me.

But this day was different.  Sundays are wedding days in China.  And in Qingdao, for those that have little money to pay for the expensive rituals weddings have become in China, they come to the beach to rent wedding gowns of any and all fashion, tuxes or suites that make the man look like he could afford his new bride and many bring their wedding friends to dress according to the tradition of having many bridesmaids and groomsmen at one’s wedding.  And they bring photographers to capture their special day in poses that ranged from the traditional to romantic to, WHAT are you sure you want to do that.

There must have been thirty or forty couples on the beach that day.  As I strolled I saw women hiking their dresses, revealing the jeans they wore underneath, to get that photo that would be their memory of being together in fun and in love for years to come.  I walked past many couples that day, thinking these are memories in the making.  Their smiles, some exchanging happiness glances with me, were contagious.

My blessing was a different experience that the one I had planned n Qingdao.  Given the opportunity, I would return to Qingdao.  I got a chance to hangout in a few dance clubs, drink coffee at the Starbucks in a downtown plaza, visit a wonderful aquarium full of kids and sea life I had never seen before and eat fresh caught squid grilled on the beach.  And on that beautiful Sunday as I walked alone, I kept catching glimpses of what is possible when one takes a step of faith into possibility.  As you can see from the photos below, it was a day full of romance.  It was a day full of hope.  It was a day full of love.  It was a day full of joy.  It was a day for forgiveness.

The Beauty of Connectedness: A Love/Friendship Letter For The Ages   5 comments

I grew up as the only child in the house, but also was never really alone.  The way it works out is that my sister is 18 years older than me and was starting her own family when I came along.  She used to like to say, our mother had a tumor that just never went away.  LOL… Our brother, now deceased, was 23 years older than me had children before and after I came along.  Our father died when I was a senior in high school.  So, after I left for college, our mother, at age 62, began taking in foster children. Not all at one time, but all together she took in something like nineteen children.  The last two that came into her home stayed until she died; like seventeen years.  They became my sisters also.  Her grandchildren, and even folks in the community, called her “Mom Berta.”  It was natural, I guess.  I think that was her passion, taking care of children and people.  There seemed to be constant streams of her grandchildren, my nieces and nephews, other family members and friends in and out of our small, sometimes very cramped house.

Most would agree, the way in which we are raised conspires to give us our sense of self and our worth.  I think because of my mother, the way I grew up, I am hypersensitive to the connections that extend to people, other living creatures and the earth, regardless of place and time.  I am passionate about, and sometimes a real sucker for, the struggles of others.  And to be honest, I prefer it that way.   The more I travel,  knowing people and their cultures, the more I believe in the connectedness of all life.

For the past five years, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Colombia have been where my interests lay.  Now as I turn my attention to my next travel adventure, China and the Philippines, I again turn to the internet learning what I am getting into before I go; making contacts that may lead to friendships; and yes, even exploring the possibilities of lasting relationships.  Yes, one has to be careful.  There are lots of people out there who use the internet to abuse and use one another.  However the internet also provides the opportunity for people of like minds to join together to make the world a better place; to share ideals, causes and to realize aspirations; and those that wish to know each other in honest and caring ways with the ability to do so.  I guess like most tools, the internet is as powerful, as good or evil, as the soul that uses it.

I recently received a letter from someone I met by way of the internet.  In the spirit of how it came to me, I offer it to you.  Please feel free to share this letter in ways that you feel inspires the spirit of our connectedness.  Let it come from your heart though.  I think insincerity would undermine the karma.  Friendship and love are essential to my soul.  To all my friends/family thank you for being in my life, and supporting me in my efforts to, like my mother, have a positive influence in the lives of others.

Dear Wayne

I’ve been thinking: if love can move mountains, true friendship – which is the widest expression of love – should be able move a group of mountains, should in fact be able to move the world! If everyone was as lucky as I am, and had a friend or knew someone like you, the world would be a much better and friendlier place.

Being able to count on your friendship makes me a more open, more sensitive person, more confident in the future of this small planet of ours. Maybe I’m dreaming, but that’s all it would take: that every human being was as lucky as I am and had a friend like you!

And you, on the other hand, would have another friend, an even more special friend; and it would all turn into an endless chain of people in search of harmony, and this feeling would be passed on to the wisest of scientists, the wealthiest of businessmen and the most cold hearted of world leaders!

Being friends with someone is not a hard thing to do, especially when that friend is someone like you; it allows the people who are closest to practice their best qualities, such as tolerance, generosity and justice, which should be the basis of every relationship.

Looking forward to meet you one day.  Thanks for coming in my life….Take care

Inspirational isn’t it?  God Bless Love and Friendship

Posted March 10, 2012 by Wayne in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

“Fairy Tales” – Bagan, Myanmar – Amnon Eichlberg – Featured Photographer   Leave a comment

“Fairy Tales” – Bagan, Myanmar – Amnon Eichlberg – Featured Photographer.

Posted February 22, 2012 by Wayne in Other People's Travels

Tagged with

Wandering About The Great Ovarian Lottery In Costa Rica   3 comments

Walking in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica after breakfast is one of my favorite things to do.  Besides exercise, walking gives me the opportunity to get into the vibe of Costa Rica city life.  San Jose is a bustling place with about three million people living in the central valley which surrounds the city.  One of the nice things that San Jose has done is to close a couple of main arteries to car and truck traffic; Avenida Central and Paseo Union Europa.  “People watching” in San Jose is like visiting a living museum of Latin America culture.  On any given day, walking the streets of San Jose, you can see people from Nicaragua, Colombia, Europe, Canada, the Caribbean and many Native Americans.  People indigenous to the region here are called Native American also.  Which make a lot of sense as the boundaries we are used to that divide countries, and states, had no currency to the natives of the Americas.  One of the things that strikes me as I walk are the number of people hustling their living.  I often wonder who they are, and how did they come to selling everything from fruit to something resembling onion rings in long tubular bags to cigars and fake Rolexes.  These people are living lives without safety nets.  A reality that is way far from anything I know.

Costa Rica is a hot tourist destination but there is not a lot of pretense.  It is more rustic, a naturalist’s paradise.  Sunday’s are family days for people in Costa Rica.  As the picture to the right shows there are many festivals and free concerts in the parks in downtown San jose.  There are many places to dance, drink and socialize in Costa Rica. You are just not going to find many New York, Miami or LA style clubs, restaurants, museums, galleries, theater or concerts.  I have found that the really great places to go dancing are like hole in the walls or in strip malls.  At Mas T’kila, Plaza Itsazu, an unlikely place for dancing – because they have no dance floor per se – a dance until the place closed party broke out around our table.  There are lots of places to eat but the vast majority of the places are in the neighborhoods where the locals eat, with prices ranging from $5 to $7 a plate or less.  Recently, four of us celebrated a friend’s birthday at a place called Matices, San Raphael de Heredia.  The bill came to less than $50, for six small plates, a huge salad (that three of us shared), an entrée, two glasses of wine, two sodas, gratuity and tax.

Like many cities and places that cater to tourists, the real story lies in the close to 30% of the population that struggle to keep pace with the high cost of housing bolstered by foreign investors and gringo property owners.  A fact not unnoticed by the Costa Rican government when they unanimously approved a luxury home owner’s tax in 2010.  The tax, levied on homes valued at more than $180,000 is the government’s attempt to generate resources supporting sub-standard housing.  Remember New Orleans, Lower Ninth Ward?  In fact, unless you seclude yourself in one of the country’s idealistic resorts, Costa Rica can be a bit in your face with the life struggles many face in Latin America.

As I walked the streets of San Jose, I was reminded of the fact that I went to college not because my parents were rich but because they were poor.  Taking advantage of the intricate system of federal, state and private financial assistance gave me the kind of choices that having an education gives people.  After college I got a job.  It was easy.  I applied to maybe three of four places and one hired me.  When I found that the job was crazier than I imagined it would be, I took my brother up on his offer to help me get started in Pittsburgh.  And within two months of moving there I had another job.  In my consciousness, in my life’s history, when I wanted an education I got one.  When I wanted a job I got one.  When I found that the $6700 a year that I was being paid was too little for the lifestyle I wanted to live, I went to graduate school.  There was scholarship help that enabled me to accomplish that goal also.

We have put higher education within reach of all citizens in the United States.  To be qualified for the work available should be a no brainer.  To remain competitive in today’s job market is within reach of all who want to better their lives.  This is a part of the fabric of the United States.  This is the privilege that goes with being a United States citizen.  This is the consciousness of entitlement that me and most of my friends grew-up with.  We are the land of opportunity.  And many of us think that opportunity is our God given right.  To take advantage of if we want, or not!

I have no frame of reference for what it is like to get up every morning and not know what I am going to eat that day.  I do not know what it is like to have to hustle my rent money, sleep on a mattress on the floor or have my children wonder why they are not watching cable television.  Walking the streets of San Jose, seeing the shanties in the hillsides, watching street vendors clean their stalls, listening to hustlers call out to potential customers to come buy their stuff, seeing the women go into the Hotel Del Ray or one of San Jose’s other less well known houses of prostitution, gives me a view of how we regard our privilege that makes me both mad and sad.

I get angry when I hear people, who have never faced a day of making the decisions that many people in this world make every day to survive.  They judge the choices others make by the opportunities they have or the choices that many of us have convinced ourselves are our God given right.  Somewhere along the line they either forgot how the west was really won or simply drank the Kool-Aid, becoming content in the unconscious rapture of privilege.

I get sad when I think of the imbalance and inequity that has become standard in the world.  My generation, baby-boomers, grew-up with the misguided notion that the world contained limitless resources.   We now know that this is not true.  For every McMansion there are hundreds of people across the globe living in horrible conditions, which perhaps would not be so bad if it were truly their choice to do so or if access to wealth and power did not covet access to more wealth and power.   The hypocrisy is that we live every day knowing, consciously or unconsciously, that the game is rigged in our favor; acting like everyone has the same opportunities as us.  We give little away.  We take way more than our share.  And we say God bless America.  I cannot imagine that God is not sad about this also.

This is the thought that I am left with as I conclude my walk.  In perhaps the most important day of our lives, the day we were born, our journey was cast.  I wonder what my journey would have been if I was born to a woman in Latin America, that had no formal education and a husband that left her soon after I was born.  I hope that my life would be in balance, healthy and full of family and friends like most of the people I know in Costa Rica.

Posted February 12, 2012 by Wayne in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Looking For Love In Latin America: Introduction/Marriage Agencies   Leave a comment

On New Year’s Eve I ran into a woman that runs a local matrimonial agency.  I had just come from the home of fiends.  She had just come from a party at the Hotel de Prado.  I have to put that on my list of possibilities for New Year’s next year.  From the looks of people leaving the hotel they had fun.   We exchanged numbers, vowing to go to get-together.  So when on one of my walk/jogs, Barranquilla sidewalks are great exercise because they are uneven, I found myself close to her office and dropped by.

Yami runs the Barranquilla office for A Foreign Affair (AFA), a well-established player in the business of bringing American men to foreign countries to find wives, or whatever.  After about two minutes of pleasantries, the question came.  Do you have a girlfriend?  I was not put off by the question.  I kind of expected it.  Truthfully, I had no knowledge of introduction agencies until I started coming to Colombia about three years ago.  I mean, I had heard of mail order brides.  In fact, when working in Philly I met a faculty member that had ordered himself one from China.  But that was more than twenty years ago.  It was during a visit to Manizales that the then owner of Manizales Cupido tried to get me interested in becoming a client of his agency.  Though I did not join, he did make me curious.  Who uses these services?  And why?   Are these guys desperate?  Are the women?

Last year, while looking for the answers to these questions, I saw Lisa Ling’s report, “Online Brides” on Our America.  An AFA tour to Barranquilla was the subject of her story.  Her story focused on one particular young woman.  Her interviews gave depth to the hopes and dreams of men and women looking for love and stability on foreign shores.  So, I decided to see for myself.  And if I met someone great fine!  After calling their corporate office, AFA is based in Phoenix, Arizona, I arranged for a rate reduction because I did not need the hotel.  I was living in Barranquilla during the time of their next tour.  That is how I met Yami, who was now very curious about my relationship status.

What I have come to learn is that these agencies are largely unregulated.  The screening of participants can be as stringent as interviews and reference checks or as lax as anyone who walks in the door can participate.  Because of two cases involving foreign women brought to the United States as potential brides, but eventually murdered, some agencies advertise their compliance with the International Marriage Broker Act of 2005 (IMBR).  They conduct background checks on men who seek to use their services to meet women.   AFA is one of them, even though they seem to regard the Act as something which will “…make it somewhat more cumbersome for you to make initial contact with foreign women.”  This statement comes from their website.

There are at least five Introduction/Marriage agencies operating in coastal Colombia: Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Cartagena.  Their fees can range from $595 to $1795, airfare excluded.  AFA is a worldwide introduction/marriage agency.  To travel to other parts of the world, including Costa Rica, Philippines, China and the Ukraine their costs can get close to $3000, again airfare not included.  Some agencies will also arrange for individual introductions for those men willing to pay the fee for the added attention. 

AFA does not lie though when they say that they will have lots of women at their events.  Principally consisting of two socials, and three side trips, the first evening there were over seventy women there.  The next evening there were almost ninety.  I learned later, though, that the ways they get women there can be a bit scheming.  Kellie, a 30 year old Barranquilla woman, with no children, shared with me her felling about the whole affair.  She had attended three AFA tour events.  The first time, she says, was to know what was possible.  The second time they called saying that there was a guy that had traveled to Colombia wanting to meet her.  Later, she said, she found that was not true.  The third time they had friends convinced her to come.  And that was when we met.

Throw out the image of desperate losers looking for beautiful poor women to do their bidding.  On the AFA tour I attended there were businessmen, a postal worker, an attorney, a doctor, an IT expert and other professions represented.  They came to Colombia from as far away as Seattle.  In my mind these guys had choices.  Yet, there was an air of disappointment in the group.  No one said it aloud.  But it was there.  We found, after asking about certain women, that the AFA website is padded with women who are no longer participating in their events.  Their online tour orientation, which was terrible both technologically and content wise, had a “come and get it” tone to it, as if one was being affirmed for joining the Latina nookie club.  Confirmed by the sexual overtone that exists on their website.    Regardless of what they say ahead of time, one should know that there is no guarantee that anyone in the room will be interesting to you, or interested in you.  You pay your money and take your chances that someone in the sea of faces will be the one.  Or if you are just there hoping that you will get laid by some hot Latina the tours have that potential also.  According to Kellie and others, it happens.

Introductions are big business, and AFA has their formula down to a science.  Though to most of us their events were a bit like organized chaos. Their format, for which neither I nor the guys I talked with felt prepared, was a combination of speed dating, interviewing and the getting third degree. We were assigned an interpreter to help us overcome the language barrier; introduced to the throng of women in the room; and then given about 15 minutes to meet between eight and ten woman seated at a round table.  Some of whom say no potential in any of us.  Some of whom were seriously looking for a life partner.  Some of whom, it was obvious, were just there for the dinner.  I can only imagine how the two hour round robin, tell a stranger about yourself in an attempt to make a life-long love connection before dinner is served made them feel.  Kellie confided that she felt like she was selling herself.   There is a lot of competition between women she said.  “Many women are hoping for one man.  No one has time to know the other person sincerely. There is no time to know what we had in common.  It is like you need to be perfect.  The man looking for a perfect woman and women feeling like they have to show that they are perfect, in fifteen minutes.”

My belief is that AFA, and others, do indeed play on the potential that a relationship with a foreign man will improve these women’s lives.  But for the most part the image of women seeking visas and sugar daddies is not true.  Latin America is a machista culture.  In general, women depend on men for economic and emotional stability.  That is just the way they roll here.  Economics, family and religion can drive relationship decisions.  Practical decisions about what type of life that can be lived can take a back seat to the fairy tales of falling in love and living happily ever after that we are bottle fed in the United States.

To answer Yami’s question.  No I do not have a girlfriend.  I did make a great friend though.  Melissa (see her and I on left, hanging out), my tour interpreter, a great young lady working her way through college, has been my Spanish tutor and friend since the tour.  It was actually from Melissa’s family’s home I was coming when I ran into Yami on New Year’s Eve.  For many reasons, I am resistant to the see one, choose one and marry one format that one seemingly needs to have to make the most of an Introduction/Marriage agency.  Some of my Latina friends have accused me of playing or taking too much time to make a simplistic decision.  Maybe there is some truth to both.  In my own defense, I have always made decisions from my brain, always trying to do the right thing.  For perhaps the first time in my life I am going to follow my heart’s desire -wherever that may lead.

Posted January 17, 2012 by Wayne in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

My New Year’s Resolution: To Not Look For Love In Latin America, Part I   5 comments

Each New Year thoughts and resolutions turn to making this year better than the last.  I’m gonna exercise more.  I am going to stick to my diet.  Find a new job.  Take a vacation.  There are thousands of different ways people swear they are going to change their lives for the better.

Well, I have decided on what not to do this year.  After a tough divorce from a great woman, I have decided to relax.  To not try so hard to have the family in my life that seems to have eluded me.   And from a guy that has spent decades fooling himself into believing that he was in control, this will be no small feat.

To understand my decision in its essence, I need to go back to high school.  I was the ugly duckling.  I was dark brown in a culture that valued light and white.  My glasses were not made for young men with fragile egos.  Coke bottles, I think they called them.  I am from the nerd stock.  A wanna be intellectual with boyish ways and a decent smile.  But after three years in and out of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Colombia I have come to know that one’s ego can write checks that ultimately will beg the question, what do you really want for your life.

For reasons, at least in my mind way too complicated to tackle in this article, there are way too many women (like my friend in the photo) in these countries seeking boyfriends, marriage or just someone to share their journeys.  Some are breathtakingly gorgeous.  Many are just plain pretty.  Most would make any man happy.  And some are either desperate or damaged, or both, enough that they would go with whoever can pay the bills.  This is the ego driven temptation that belies the fact that there is basicness, a simplicity, about life and living in Latin America which underscores the true value, and perhaps even intent, of relationships.

Being in Latin America can be like being Odysseus on his journey home.  Even if one avoids crashing on the Island of Sirens you still have to deal with Calypso wiling you to a fantasy filled life on the Isle of Ogygia.  Not a bad life if one is ready for the responsibilities that come with the willingness to have someone in your life who will try their best to give you what you think you need, when you think you need it.  What I have come to know is that the hopes and dreams of many here is not only about falling in love.  They are also about not having to live in crowded houses, sleeping with other people in your bed no matter how old you are, eating healthier and doing more than working without end.

I once met a guy in a bar in Costa Rica.  He had an apartment in San Jose.  He was maybe early to mid-sixties.  Tall and handsome.  Kind of like I imagine Colin Firth will look in his later years.  He was waiting, he said, for his new woman friend.  As we talked, sharing from where we both came, he admitted both to me, and I think himself, that her motives may not be just for love.  It was easy to tell that he was taken.  And as she walked in the door I could see why.  She was absolutely movie star status.  Five nine, maybe 130 lbs., maybe 25 or 26, long auburn hair with golden highlights, a killer body and a “come and do whatever you think you can handle” smile.  As they left, we said our “wish you wells.”  Poignantly, he added, “I think she could probably teach me something about life.”

According to Homer, Odysseus bade his men to tie him to the mast of his ship to avoid the temptations of the sirens.  He knew that the songs of sirens will change your life without those changes being a conscious, and if it is ones value, a planned decision.  In Latin America, the stakes are different.  Perhaps even higher!  In my journey, I have learned the difference between ego driven decisions and decisions that come from living a life that is fulfilling.  Hard as it may be to imagine, though poverty and disparity may cause people to come from a place of economic need they can also come from a place of spiritual wholeness, even in their desperation and damage.  This is a profound shift in being, as well as the way the world has worked around me.

The inescapable reality in Latin American is that meeting one’s needs can come before love.  And love can come from meeting someone’s needs.  A love that is stronger, more binding, fiercely loyal and passionate in service to the wants of the provider than I have ever known.  For all I know my handsome bar friend could be living in San Jose in perfect bliss.  Knowing what he has, or not knowing, but being content each day with what is making him happy.  There is a part of me which would envy him that life.  Perhaps that is my ego talking.  Or the “Leave It To Beaver” life goal that I was programmed to believe would bring me happiness.

But I am not yet ready for Ogygia.  Like Odysseus I am on a journey, as are we all.  And as most of us know, sometimes getting home can be a challenge full of trials and triumphs.  I am grateful to have the ability to learn, to grow, to enjoy connections that affirm the conscious enlightenment to which I aspire.  My goals remain: to be a positive light in the lives of others; to be physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy; to grow and prosper in my writing; to find a home that will benefit from my art and design background; and to create more opportunities for my continued teaching and learning.

2012 will be a great year, I know.  I am already blessed the teachings of my journey.

Happy New Year

Posted January 9, 2012 by Wayne in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

%d bloggers like this: