Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Last Pass.

Last pass.

The pass through the Andes from Chiclayo on the coast to the Northern “eyebrow of the jungle” bring you through coastal ocean air, over the misty cloudy high mountain pass, and descending into the humid layers of rain and tropical foliage.

Sitting at the front of our bus looking through the panoramic window in the front seat, my favorite moments of this journey included driving past beautiful people on the side of the road as we passed through their tiny towns, sometimes a population of several homes. The literal connection eye to eye with someone I would never otherwise encounter in my entire life—and for just this one small passing micro moment in time, we took one another in. So many thoughts passed through my mind about their lives and what it felt like to be in their skin and shine through their soul. Pondering the rivers they walk wrapped into these mountains, the pineapple stand woman on the roadside, the 5 year old girl holding guard for a small bathroom fee to use the covered hole in the ground, a pregnant woman with a walking stick on the rocky edge of the high hazy path, the dark brown shades of their skin from the powerful equator sun. In these instants, just a real and complete thought about all of these amazing lives, and wondering as they looked through those large windows at me glowing by the light of my IPOD, did they wonder at all? Such it was driving through the valleys of the great divide.

To protect the location of the majestic cacao project, I won’t use names of the towns where we wandered. We arrived to the base of the high jungle with sheets of warm rain falling from the sky. This was a very different energetic shift for me after years of working in the high mountain culture of the Andes. We descended deeper for about two hours into the gorgeous tints of the lands, literally driving into breathtaking roadside tropical flora as if we melted into a painting. We passed by a roadside shack for a fresh machete-hacked coconut and drank the glorious water so chock full of life. Through a neighboring town we kept our speed to evade the local “bandilla” (gang), and at a slow high curve on the path encountered the informal security team who took on the policing of a pass that was once wrought with robberies. The local guards even donned their own camo shirts and strapped guns to their bodies. The price for their labor to keep you safe was tipping them 30 cents as we passed by.

At the literal end of the road, we came to a rushing river, one of the many tributaries of the Great Amazon River. Two big floats made from wood planks were connected to cables that plunged into the rock cliffs on both sides of the roaring water. With a push from a team of men who managed the floats, the wood raft would move across the water connected to the cable as the guide (almost like a zip line from ground to cable high up in the air). Without electricity, the angle of the cables was directed perfectly by the flow of the water current and slowly but surely, the raft would arrive at the other side of the river. It is seriously amazing what creativity comes out of people! These floats were typically used to bring a car/moto to pass to the communities on the other side of the river, since the other side would otherwise be impenetrable within Peru as the road functioned like a jungle dead end. We crossed the river in the usual people fashion, sitting in wooden row boats balanced in the middle of our seats to stabilize (mind you, with modern luggage against rustic wood, it was a sight I am sure!). The other side of the river functioned as our “home base” for the next three days. Here we entered the sleepy 4 block pueblo with a dusty road running through the middle of ramshackle concrete.

Rolling my small travel bag down the middle of the town, I was met with stares and wonderment, inviting smiles. Several girls came up and stood next to me, staring. I wondered if they had ever had a seriously white blond ghost like me stumbling through their streets. I felt safe and cradled in this small place where people definitely CHOOSE to come into. HOME. It made me think of the transient people we are in the U.S.—many of us finding several different homes in different places over the course of a lifetime. These small towns I have visited in Peru (and developing world in general) are usually places that people stay for their lifetimes. The pulse of community is very deep and strong, and how you show up in this community is known to all.

After some mud oven fired bread and a cup of Criollo coffee made from beans picked, roasted, and mashed right from the land—we were off to visit the magical lands that surrounded these thick brushy hills for as far as the eye could see. Driving out into the small rocky paths through rice fields with lime-emerald-jade-greens that almost blinded the eyes, tropical trees with of coconut, lime, grapefruit, and bananas, framed the muddy road. Leaves of all shapes and sizes scraped against the bed of the truck as we whipped by with six of us bouncing around in back against the metal bed.

We first stopped at Noë’s family farm. Noë is the head of the agricultural association of more than 300 cacao (chocolate bean) growing farmers in the surrounding communities. Noë has the most honest round brown eyes and a big smile with a large gap between his two front teeth. He is an observer and watches. Noë has been described as a savant of sorts related to the cacao tree; he was the sole farmer who invited my friends Brian and Dan of Marañon Chocolate to come to this area, telling them that the trees on these farms were bearing special fruit. Noë described that he could see the auras off the trees and that these farms had something quite different compared to farms that were growing modern strains of cacao introduced by USAID. Brian and Dan listened and when they began opening cacao pods back in 2009 (chocolate beans grow in beautiful pods that look like fruit, see picture!), the pods were partially full of white beans. Cacao beans are normally purple in color, and so white signified a genetic mutation over time (like an albino child). As they began searching, white beans filled pods in most of the nearby farms—later verified by agricultural scientists that this sort of genetic mutation would signify years of change over the long-term and the frequency of white beans showing up meant that the trees may be over 1000 years old!! Noë knew what he was talking about indeed…

This is the magic that we stepped into. This meant that for countless years these trees had lived, adapted, and created. In fact, they adapted so much that unlike a normal modern cacao plant variety, these trees actually created their own ability to impregnate themselves! On the branches, you could see the tiny new pods no bigger than the size of a pinkie nail sitting 4 inches from the open female flower—pollinated by a tiny jungle fly. Evolution is seriously amazing. Well the magic of Spirit is too!!

Bottom line is…this is where we walked all day, charged by ancient history. I loved the feeling of walking in the haze of sunlight misting through the trees, being so far away from the usual buzz of the world and plugged into a different stream of energy that nature provides. We stopped to knock coconuts off other trees and hacked them with machetes…that life giving water just pouring into you and getting sticky on your cheeks. I ran my hair through the falling streams to cut the heat and humidity coating my skin. This was pure and celestial.

For lunch, Noë’s wife and mom prepared cuy (guinea pig) for everyone. This is a delicacy and was surely their symbol of caring and gifting for us. I was prepared for this as this is often a special meal shared with those deemed as important guests, and to say no to an invitation like this is an insult especially when a family is giving you more than they would do for themselves. Being a vegetarian and knowing I would probably truly vomit if I ate the guinea pig, I ate my rice and mashed lentil beans and swapped the bones of Brian’s cuy carcass for my fresh meat. In situations like this, the local family will eat in a different room and allow the visitors to dine together. This allowed me the space to pull this off. Right or wrong…I always struggle with this as part of the journey and regardless, I made it through lunch with an empty plate of bones and joy.

Noë’s Mom truly impressed me. She came into the room when we asked to thank her and half of the right side of the front of her head was gone from an aneurism she had. It was truly a miracle that after more than 20 hours in a truck, boat, bus…she lived through an operation in Lima. The farmers from the lands all over pitched in to pay what they could of her surgery. I sense she is a Mother energy to many of them. She came out of the fire lit, steaming kitchen with the brightest smile and sat by my side after a round of several thank you’s and applause. We talked about how she was glad to have a little more time with her children, and that she was not fearful of death. She said every new day she got to share with her family was important and warmed her heart. I couldn’t help but to think of how graced I was to share one of these special times with her and her family…blessed to eat from the labor of her hands and heart and spirit (I think I got it, even minus the cuy!)

Each evening when we returned from the field at about 6pm included a debriefing of the day as a team. A full bucket shower of cool water accented the day’s end. Carly (NPR reporter) and I shared a mattress with our mosquito net hovering over us like those fancy queen like bedroom sets with cascading curtains. I called our bed the “Queendom” and we laughed laying down the first night how we had known each other for about 12 hours. We made an agreement not to try and move too much on the bed during the night. I think we both felt like frozen robots—trying not to bother each other in the total heat of the night, sweat drenched under our PJ pants and long sleeves.

Another amazing stop we made was on the farmland of the Fortunato family. The chocolate being made from all these majestic beans in this area (processed by a Swiss chocolate maker) has been named Fortunato No 4. Last year, Brian and Dan sent samples of these trees to the USDA Agricultural group and the results came back astounding…that the number 4 sample became the new benchmark for purest sample of cacao in the entire world registry, with all their other samples hovering close to it. Hence, number 4 sample from Fortunato’s farm…Fortunato No 4.

Fortunato is a humble and quiet man who has lived his entire life on these sacred lands. His mom lived to over 100 and his dad to over 90 farming the same earth. Campesinos (farmers) are often in incredible shape from the constant physical labor on their land and eating the purest forms of food they grow. Weathered and leathered from the sun, Fortunato didn’t talk very much, but kept a steady closed lip grin that accentuated his deep face wrinkles and stared with pensive caramel eyes from under the brim of a hat. His land was indeed his best friend…and provided conversation for him as he walked around looking, machete pruning with care, and talking to the nature around him—surely nature conversing back with him. One of the most beautiful things was to watch Fortunato and his wife meander together through the groves of trees. They walked in such comfort side by side, occasionally glancing at one another. Slowly sauntering, they talked of history, children, joking gently with one another, and glowing with HOME for each other, a place where Love was flowing.

I couldn’t help but think of Fortunato and his family and the double meaning of his name (Fortune). Here was the most docile of people who had farmed their land for generations. As we sat together next to the No 4 sample tree, the purest mother genetically to all other trees around it, I touched it thinking of how life emerges. Part of me couldn’t help but see our photo snapping group of gringos with our camera extensions as conquistadores, but yet I heard and saw the gratitude in Fortunato for getting nearly 50% more for his beans than a big company would pay if he sourced them the usual route. Without even trying, Fortunato found himself a star…and all that this brings with it. For better or worse, or both.

During these journeys into the farmlands, I also had the goal of gathering women to talk about microcredit. I said before in previous writings that the “pasa la voz” (pass the voice) method of sending information works like magic. This is a place where cell phones don’t exist (that is, there was one phone booth in the 3 block pueblo that was operated by someone. You couldn’t make any calls, you could only receive calls. If someone called for you, the operator of the booth would use a loud megaphone speaker to announce to the town that you just got a call. The person who called would be calling back in 10 minutes, so you have to get to the booth!) In this kind of a communication system, the concept of passing information works like it did for people during the Incan times…word would literally travel from person to person through the mountains to reach villages of people.

I told 10 women about the microcredit meeting I was having at 4pm on Friday, and when I walked to the home of the woman who hosted us in her back yard of dirt and animals, nearly 40 women from four different pueblos showed up. It was awesome! There we sat as dusk fell and shared some pop and talked about microcredit + training. It was clear to me they were thirsty for growth of business for their families. We spent two hours laughing, questioning, explaining, and sharing. As dusk fell, I was amazed watching the native women innately KNOW when the tiniest weight of a mosquito was landing on their skin. They would pick them off effortlessly and with precision. I started feeling some bites and the fear of disease crept into my head. I pulled out my REI 35% DEET and they were all looking at me with wonder and I couldn’t help but laugh at myself in a bright white shirt melting from the heat, putting poison on my skin from somewhere so far away…sitting with these people who had adapted to nature over many years.

La Barbie as they called me…sitting under the drops of rain. I watched them work in unison, holding each others children, sharing ideas for business. For me, it left a residue of possibility and pure joy. The world was moving in slow motion and just watching the power of these ladies. I wish they could have understood even an ounce of what Love they modeled for me.

As I make the last pass of this journey approaching Austin, I just want to say that these stories find their meaning in you and through you. This is the gift we give each other. In every word you’ve read, you’ve affirmed the lives of every person connected here.

Love is truly infinite.
Signing off. Safe and Sound. Loved beyond words.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A reckoning.

A reckoning.

How to give you the story that it is my Heart?

I invite the story into me like a wave arrives onto a sandy shore, nourish it with all that I am and let it lap back out into ALL that IS to join you.

My Heart is open wide and my body is tired as I watch the mountain majestic greens pass through my window now leaving the jungle. I write under the dim sunlight filtering through thick clouds.

This was one of the most physically rigorous journeys I have taken in my travels, but through total disconnection from the world we know, the soul is nourished through absolute simplicity of Life, so present in front of you. This reflection is a time where I rode the rails of all that lives between Love and fear. In the physical form of being lost at the mouth of the jungle, there is an opportunity to find. Some of the things I thought and felt:

Joy and marvel at the seemingly hundreds of different hues of green that drench the framework of the land. Every vista is more breathtaking than the one before. Life is breathing everywhere.

Humility in being a tiny speck in such an enormous natural force. Feebleness in knowing I am just another living organism in a seriously unexplainable web of creatures.

Fear winding through the blinding curving roads soaked with rain, rocks, and a new set of rules that crippled all my own logic.

Respect for the creativity and inventiveness of people who live rudimentary with nature as their primary teacher. They are patient beyond belief, calm, warm, and in the most present way—happy for what matters—health and life for their children and family.

Terror in the discomfort of undeniable heat, disease, and total lack of control.

Kindness and sadness in being given food by beautiful weathered strangers across the world and watching these locals scrape my plate for their own meal.

Judging and judged as a blue eyed, blond haired woman who got the opportunity to walk on some of these deep foliage paths filled with ancient magical trees. The continuum of the world colliding and merging in the very same instant. These moments of learning can be painful as they expose layers so hidden in the forests of your heart—to SEE who you are. These moments can be exhilarating beyond any excitement I’ve known to feel LOVE that binds us in such tangible ways. I think the body sometimes doesn’t even know how to process these layers.
During one moment, I found myself under an almost full moon sky taking a bucket bath with rain sheeting down from the sky onto me. The shower teetering on a wooden platform above the river I crossed on a small wooden paddle boat with my bags, now churning wildly below me. Pure darkness in the shower to evade the Dengue mosquitoes. Here, I wept and laughed together. The river, rain, darkness, cool rush, frustration, and unexplainable gratitude exactly matched my physical surrounding and poured from within me. I don’t think I’ve cried that hard for many years, but there was a LOT of rain falling to be in concert with me and me with it. We can never really unravel all that is in these spaces of us, I just assume that as I wade into the layers of me—I become a more whole soul. I appreciate more. I know how precious this life is as I get to breathe in these morsels of living color.

This kind of journey brings you to new plateaus of respect for so many things: health, safety, family, comforts that we take for granted and…spiritual nourishment. This kind of journey also hurts as parts of you are literally exfoliated into change. This can only be described as a reckoning. An awakening. And with it there is the work that is total forgiveness, around every mountain curve. It takes a lot of love. To taste Love is our function. I’m going to finish this eve’s writing with a piece from a beautiful tune (hyperlink if you want to hear it). I am physically so very tired and looking forward to dreaming. I’ll write more of the specifics on the gorgeous parts of the trek and the people that lit the path soon!

Rolling River God (Words Nichole Nordeman)
Little Stones are smooth
Only once the water passes through
So I am a stone
rough and grainy still
Trying to reconcile this river's chill

But when I close my eyes
and feel you rushing by
I know that time brings change
and change takes time
And when the sunset comes
my prayer would be just this one
that you might pick me up
and notice that I am
just a little smoother in your hand
Sometimes raging wild
sometimes swollen high
never have I known this river dry
The deepest part of you
is where I want to stay
and feel the sharpest edges wash away

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle BaBY.

Hey beautiful folks.
I have 5 mins to write this...and leaving for the outer jungle country tomorrow at 6am.

6 hours thru the night. 4 hours wait, 6 hours thru the afternoon.

We made it. I know how amazing Spirit is. The ride was one of the craziest of my life, and most beautiful. My bus seat was in the front of a two story bus, 12 feet in the air with a 2 foot window, to SEE the entire journey. During the day...electric green hues like your eyes have never seen. Riding into the clouds. Jungle rains falling. Rocks sliding onto the road (sometimes blocking up to 24 hours...if big enough). We slid around deep mountain curves, missing cars, buses, animals, people, rocks...and well...I am glad to just sleep tonight and know I am safe.

No connection for several days as far as I can tell as we will be sleeping out in the country of the jungle. Just wanted to bring you to this small corner of the world, where the jungle road ends and beautiful people shine.

You are all with me...more than you know.
Love beyond words,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chasing chocolate in the high jungle.

Dear Family! Ready to disconnect and leave for the first of two 6-hour bus rides…this will introduce the second part of the journey of hope. I am consolidating my bags in half so I can travel light up into the high jungle. It is always fun to “drop” things here, I think mostly for the realization that when it comes down to it, the material things don’t matter much.

Many of you have sent me your Love and protection and I know that this will be with me. I am dropping my computer with a family on the coast after the first 6-hr ride, so my connectivity may be sparse. If there is a way to write, I will. I will scribe it all for you for whatever moment I can get to this space of sharing.

The journey goes: 6 hr ride thru mountain roads to the coast of Chiclayo (I like it better in the dark, because if you see what lies below you and the rubble road without any protection from the edge, well, it is unnerving. Chiclayo arrival 5am…where I will meet up with Carly Y., an NPR International writer who is doing a story on the Maranon Chocolate site I will be visiting. Second 6 hour bus ride northeast into high jungle were we will meet “Gringo Brian,” an unspeakably awesome friend who helped me frame DiscoverHope’s work in Peru many years ago and directs the operations of the chocolate project. Another 1.5 hours into the rural high jungle and we will be there…

Wrapping up the time here in Cajamarca, I am so proud of the team and the history we are building with the communities here. Today I had the chance to reflect on the very first days in winter 2007 when Nora and I traveled here to drop her off to begin our project. So beautifully the torch was passed to Desiree this year who continues to grow the vision planted years ago with an amazing team (both here and there). From team strategic planning in Spanish (hard!) to visiting women in the countryside, I suppose I could sum it up by saying I just want to wrap my arms around LIFE and say thank you.

My beautiful friend Paige sent me a blog piece that I loved; it seemed to sum up the journey ahead for me, so will just share it:
“Today marks a major Turning Point and powerful changes will be set into motion. How these changes occur, how they affect us and how we deal with them will be determined by the level of our commitment to Trueness. We are taking our first steps into unknown territory. To do this, we need to follow the Compass of our Heart which will lead us true and to trust our inner knowingness that ALL IS WELL, even when it doesn't always appear that way. There may well be challenges, but they will be brief if we are able to demonstrate our mastery by walking upon the Path of Love as a True One.”

Well, I am taking this Path.
Loving you all around the swervy, rocky mountain roads. Maggie

Monday, April 11, 2011

southern cross

the southern cross watches me tonight
a gift from this hemisphere
the aboriginal eye in the sky
celebrated by generations of culture

tonight as we eat together
they present me with thanks
for the dignity and power we give women.

I say in our quiet hearts and open minds
Love will always blaze its own pathway
Love will shine outward from us as Home
through every opened door.

dear world:
I do not know the way
but you have called
and I am open to receive the gifts.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I am at the end of a wonderful weekend of learning. Sunday night…and I wonder what you are doing in your own spaces and places? If there was a word that best sums up the vacillating emotion of this journey, it would be “vulnerability.” And by this, I mean the entire continuum of emotion that is contained in that one amazing word! Vulnerable: · heart open to the beauty of different culture · exposure to being completely physically different and constantly watched · routine = non routine · the known no longer known · contact with total poverty and (non)perspective by being among it · worry for safety at times · connotation of being an American (woman), the good, bad, amazing, and ugly · fullness in seeing opportunity light up lives · practicing (sometimes choppy) language to connect across experiences · heart open to the spiritual journey (and heart fighting spiritual journey) Friday night ended with a visit to our newest village bank of women, Madre Dolorosa. Outside of town in Nuevo Cajamarca, this amazing group of women joined together to open a cooperative restaurant with their microloans. I really enjoyed hearing them tell their stories of their own vulnerability… once being embarrassed to sell anything and now standing strong as a group who serves daily lunch menu out of their collective restaurant. Desiree is the “madrina” (godmother) of the new space and participated in a blessing for the positive growth of the restaurant; this speaks to me of the trust that women have for her. I held the newest child of the group, Daniella, who must have been less than one year. She smelled like an innocent and pure heart, and made me feel comforted holding her thinking that all over the world, new lives hold that utmost beauty. Just as a week of intense work ended, I looked forward to a pisco sour, the specialty drink of Peru (colorless grape brandy). I was shut down by the country’s “ley seca” (dry law). Who knew! This weekend happened to be the Presidential elections and for 3 full days, not a drop of alcohol could be sold or drank without a steep fine for businesses or jail time to eliminate the violence of political disagreement. Most people took the party to their homes, and I found myself playing a game of indoor soccer with a young teen boy who didn’t know that the women in my family are serious soccer chicks. I’m happy to report— game ended with 2-1, my win (a proud moment and hurt knee from a concrete floor slide tackle)…and an evening of conversation with women about the challenges of being a woman in a very macho society. Nevertheless, the elections made for an intriguing weekend of observation…as any election of a country leader would be. After firework explosions, virgin blessings, and rallies in the streets, the front runner is Ollanta Humala, a left leaning Nationalist party guy and Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori who is now in prison for his corruption against the Peruvian people. Just as we all sit and argue, agree, and wonder…well the same goes ‘round the world. Des and I enjoyed an evening at Usha Usha, a live music jam session where anyone is free to be a part of the musical creation. Melodic harmony brings people from all over the world to experience this place and Don Jaime, the owner and leader jam guitarist is a legend in town (and Lonely Planet). Des and I broke out a couple of our own tunes when they asked us to sing in English. I must say, we did a pretty good rendition of “More than Words” by Extreme (thanks to years of sister harmony in my household). I think we were forgiven for our “Hey Jude”, well at least they didn’t know what we were singing. I am much stronger with the 80’s and memories of the highest hair in the world. I went to the “mall!” today, which didn’t exist here back when I lived here in 2004-06. It is super captivating to watch people see a single escalator for the first time (there is only a single person up ride, not a down). Some of the campesinos (rural farmers) come from far and wide just to see this steel jaw machine! In this warehouse of stores, the place to be on a Sunday…the social energy converges and it is quite a sight to see people ride the metal monster into modernity, and all that it offers (and takes away) just by the mere fact of its existence.) Finally, the weekend punctuated by a perfect trip to the house of our favorite knitting teacher, Charro. Her family “received” me (this is very common here, the entire extended family gathers to say hello, gives you a kiss, watch you). Her crochet work was beautiful and I commissioned her to make me a couple unique pieces for my hippie wardrobe, including a small dress coat-cover that I hope to wear when I marry my incredible friends Haley and Joe on April 23. People here are not used to getting paid for their time…and when I broke out the money for Charro, she literally poured down tears of joy! Her whole family applauded me and asked me to try on all of her pieces so they could take pictures. As any loving gathering ends here, you are always “invited” to have something of theirs, and on this day it was some powder instant coffee that left my heart beating strong and full. Monday brings team strategic planning, and Tues begins the 12 hour bus journey to the high jungle. Vulnerable, and fulfilled in so many ways. Loving you! maggie

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Drops of Inspiration

Under wet and rainy skies, I am inspired by so many things:

Desiree our Program Manager represents DiscoverHope as an active, moving, and kind force.

Every village bank we visit in the field gets a “kiss in” and “kiss out”, that is, every woman connects with us to welcome in Gratitude and again to send off with care. Feeling is creation and quite simply, I am lifted by their feeling. Can you imagine that something so simple as being grateful can completely change your life?

Sharing is paramount…no matter what little resources people have, they greet with something that is a symbol of them: fried dough, hot chocolate, boiled potatoes in cheese sauce, laying a blanket across a dusty bench to sit on. Kindness grows out of everything.

Opportunity creates pride, listening to stories of women and watching the flicker of light come into their eyes is one of the best gifts I’ve personally received from this life work. There is power in a woman who moved from a depressed, debilitated, and beaten person to an animated teacher of crochet for countless numbers of women. In the greenest field so physically far from the coolest city in the world (Austin!), I was talking to a woman sitting on a dirt floor who had never touched a computer a year ago and knew nothing of the “internet” she asked me to “Friend” her on Facebook. In my own mental quiet, I know that every difficult moment and every doubt I’ve had sitting in my office staring at pictures of these beautiful women is translated into someone having a magical journey.

And without a doubt, every one of you who makes this possible by being connected, you are in every awesome drop of rain.

When we love, we are using the greatest power in the Universe.

And I gotta say, Love and I have a thing going on…


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Knot of Community.

April 5

Just as the sun peeked above the cloudy blanket of the morning, our plane hovered above Cajamarca Peru, the former Incan Northern stronghold. The arrival into this small mountain town is such a beautiful experience…the landing is done purely by sight as the town is very remote (aka no radar tower, sometimes just cannot happen on extra rainy days). The pattern is always the same: plane circles mountain morning haze and drops into layers of the clouds, one layer at a time…you literally enter the bowl of green and brown patched land sprawling over the expanse below…framed by mountains on every side. It is really glorious and slightly nerve wracking! Desiree our Program Manager and Oswaldo General Manager of our NGO partner greeted me in the early morning hours with a familiar welcome. We laughed on the ride into town about the welcome sensory vista of Cajamarca: flooded broken streets accented with farm animal dung and crisp air washing the fresh day into your lungs.

I slept for two hours to acclimatize to the mountain altitude and get it all together. There is vulnerability in settling into a totally different culture where you are so different from everyone. I usually begin it all with 1) rest 2) shower 3) coffee and 4) plain old remembering through any doubt that WE ARE MEANT TO HAVE AN AMAZING LIFE.

First stop: Hope House. Today’s class was 40+ women who requested crochet lessons from their favorite teacher, Charro. Walking into their Presence is such a refreshing reminder of all of the conversations I have on the US side…to be close to the women and the reason we do what we do. They are gracious and strong. The KNOT of their community in one another’s lives is so apparent. Watching them all settle into their class, I just let myself float away for a second and listen. I heard the ECHO of communion punctuated by laughter, sharing, and advice. Humbled time and time again by the strength of mothers all over the world, I just loved being close to the experience of their agility and determination—toddler wrapped in blanket on the back, young infant in their arms, and somehow crocheting the design with pride and power. Introductions and goodbyes are very ceremonial so the class began with me giving a formal speech of appreciation and ending with a personal shared kiss with every one of the ladies and their kiddos…talk about love amplified! That I get to be in receipt of such power is truly an honor.

Late Day was punctuated by bringing the entire Peruvian staff together for an evening of sharing over Peruvian pizza (aka cheese not familiar to our pizza). The world is a canvas for our imagination…and this was a joyous evening, inviting each person to contribute to how they see the future ownership of the program here. The resourcefulness and intelligence is well and alive in all of them.

Sitting in safety and gratitude. If you feel it, you can receive it! Your goodness is a magnet to all the riches in life.


Monday, April 4, 2011

The Diary of a Journey

April 4th into early am 5th. Sitting in the Lima airport…12.5 hours into the trek. I am in the in-between world of an all-night adventure—my 5:30am flight awaits to take me in the Northern Andes. Seeing the sun rise with the new day’s light over the corridor of icy caps that rise above the cloud line…well, this is indeed a beautiful treat of the first morning flight into the mountains. But first, 4 hours to go…and maybe a one-eye open doze off with my bags wrapped into my arms. Life’s journey is so special. All day I watched incredible people coming and going on their unique paths. I feel so blessed to be an observer of so many unique intersections of life. The awesome part is that we each get the very same gift! Here I am---there you are---here we are. Somewhere in here we get to share a union together. I am constantly changed by this, lifted, built, it’s as if I imagine tiny bursts of light being added into all that I AM—and as we get the chance to observe and gift—we gift the very same way. I brushed shoulders with Leann Rimes…who was moving through the Houston airport to eventually sing the National Anthem at the NCAA Basketball championship game…and to know that you may have seen her on this evening, wherever you were in the Universe, and that she also had a piece of me by virtue of the gift of passing by and getting a brush of Love. Well, it just confirms for me the connectedness we have. On the plane ride from Houston to Lima I sat next to Hal and Dot, two extraordinary people, nearly 80 years old and traveling to Macchu Picchu to stand in the energy and spirit that engulfs those magical rocks that sit atop a green vista of the world. Hal, once a structural engineer and Dot, once an RN, raised 4 children together and their thirst for experiencing life inspired all of the 6 hour flight for me. 57 years of marriage later I asked them the secret of successful love…they peppered our time together with stories of joy and pride and humor and disagreement and well, quite frankly, a love for one another that you could feel in the very comfort of their inhale and exhale side by side, their conversations a rhythm. Hal joked about the geriatric woman who hit on him at Trader Joe’s and that the secret to being picked up was some sweet spare ribs in your cart. They spoke of the most important times of their years of memories—time with family—this was their golden gem. They told me their last name was Efron and I may know their grandson Zach (hello, hot Hollywood High School Musical now grown up babe?!). We talked lovingly about stardom and its perks, but the tough trade off of just being able to BE. Bottom line, they were such special, intelligent, and grounded people. They reminded me of the spark that we are—that we can literally see and witness in every person and ourselves. What if we knew this to be true all the time? I AM A SPARK! What if we saw every person and every situation as worthy of getting a part of that from us with loving intention. What if we KNEW that was possible for us to get back also. Every time you give this…through feelings, actions, words…you just add more to what’s around you. YOUR FEELINGS REFLECT WHAT YOU ARE GIVING. Enjoy the extraordinary power you have today, Resting with You. Mags

Friday, April 1, 2011

Adventures in Hope and Chocolate

The electric green hues of the spring are reminders of coming into life for all of us. I hope that no matter what is at the forefront for you, this can be a time of growth to inhale and appreciate. As I embark on my annual trip to Peru to check on our incredible work and stir up possibility, a beautiful teacher of mine reminded me to remember back to 2003 when the “still small voice” asked me to “go see with other eyes”, and therein, the eventual birth of DiscoverHope. It was that damn still small voice in my head. The one that doesn’t go away if you ignore it. The one that likes to plant possibilities and ideas. The one that causes you to wonder your whole life long if you just let it go. Maybe it can be called God, Spirit, Universe, or any of the things that I comfortably believe all are the same great thing. What I did know was that this small voice came to me for months in 2003 everyday amidst my silent mornings: “Go see con otros ojos.” And yes, the voice was half Spanish, which I figured was slightly comical inspiration. I remember the first time I heard it. The phrase meant nothing to me: Go see with other eyes? I’m leaving the country to see with other eyes! It certainly didn’t sound like a slick business plan. So I kept asking for more. For months, images and thoughts started to form in my head until I finally had the answer: I needed to leave the boundaries of the United States to see myself from a different perspective, to see with “other eyes.” But I knew what I wanted and what I had been directed to do: I wanted to explore the change-agent in me. I wanted to know about myself from a framework of newness that didn’t include the comforts of my own culture. I wanted to see myself as a person who could truly seize the opportunity to affect change in the world. And so…the seeds for DiscoverHope were planted. Many years later…I can’t even begin to describe what I have gotten from this experience. The most important thing I’ve learned from all of this is that we all share a common connection—a desire to realize potential…in ourselves, in each other, and in the world around us. DiscoverHope is founded upon the belief that one of the most powerful things you can do for another human being is to honor the potential in that person. When we do this, we awaken hope in their hearts. With hope, opportunity is born. The journey to Peru begins April 4-April 19 and I can feel it in my heart, this one is special. I’ll begin for a week in the amazing communities of the Northern Andes near Cajamarca and check out our work which is well and alive with hundreds of women. The second half of the adventure will bring me to the high sub-tropics of the Peruvian northern border area to vet our next possible sight. My mentors Brian and Dan (who dropped me in the Andes back in 2003) have developed a beautiful chocolate project with the local communities, Marañon Chocolate. The pure white chocolate beans they have found in this region means perfection in the confection world, and there is a lot of energy around their work from chocolate buyers around the world. They want to give back to the communities and knowing all we’ve created together, this is another chance to ignite possibility. Join me here as I’ll try to write everyday on the Adventures in Hope and Chocolate. There is nothing that Love cannot accomplish. Let’s face it…the world needs us to shine its Light. As me. As you. Grateful. Maggie