Archive for poverty

Shelter from the Storm

Rose Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey, 15/11/14

Rose Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey, 15/11/14

My heart is sung out,
But to where does honesty carry
The buoyant caste.

Metallic clouds ring the sky
With grey,
Circle my stilling mind
With a heavy halo.

Lightning strikes the village pond;
Lashing black striation
Of awesome calm and power,
Baby frogs take cover
Beneath the blades of quivering grass.

The fields sway in controlled ways,
The well rehearsed bird song unfolds;
The reason we are reaching out
Only to return to centre.

All things that flip and flow
Off centre,
Balance redressed when gaze
Turns back;
To the source of heart and soul,
The primal clicking of some things
Unseen; some more,
Without cause or measure.

Where once we rested
Naked in the dark,
Small bells tied to our ankles
In a cascading melody of calm.

Drops of storm rain cleanse
The silver mirror,
Slipping on over surfaces; snagged on
Rougher edges,
Lost in the engravings of the
Ceremonial plate.

Cappadocia, Turkey 15/11/14

Cappadocia, Turkey 15/11/14


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Morning Kiss


Bees have returned to Wales

Our morning kiss

That I breathe in

Strikes deeply at my heart

And gives to me the beauty of love,

In ecstatic arms we are destiny


Cactus - Kew Gardens, London

Cactus – Kew Gardens, London

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Welcome to India – BBC Documentary

Watch this while you can, it will only be available for a few more days.

A real eye opener for all western types. This is how the majority of ‘us’ live, in poverty.  An incredible documentary about people making lives in the most extreme physical circumstances.

Truly inspiring, the human spirit is a real wonder, our will to survive and prosper is so strong.  I love the part near the end when they are viewing their new home, only ten people sleeping in a small room, a real luxury!


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2012 – the Mayan Calendar and the Flor De Maize School

A Mayan Calendar


Whats it all about then?  I hear the world is ending?  What is happening to the Mayan people today?  Where did they all go?

2012 is here, the hysteria grows and the end is nigh! Sounds like the perfect time for a new beginning.  Are we about to start over?

I am fortunate to have visited Guatemala and Southern Mexico in 2005, the highlight being the ancient Mayan cities and the incredible Mayan culture.  This experience has given me a truer perspective on the ‘end’ of the Mayan Calendar.  This ‘worlds end’.

There are too few Mayan voices, online and in books, that talk of their own culture and its calendar.  Here is a youtube clip of a Mayan elder passing on the true message of our ancestors:

So nothing changes on 21st December 2012 that is not changing now.  5125 years end and another begins.  We are in a constant state of transformation, every moment an awesome shift.  The words of our Mayan ancestor are these:

‘Let the morning come, let the dawn come, do not be afraid, spread this message around the world.’

The 13th b’ak’tun of the Mayan long count calendar is ending, that is what we believe.  One of the first westerners to study this was the brilliantly named Maud Worcester Makemson, who wrote  “the completion of a Great Period of 13 b’ak’tuns would have been of the utmost significance to the Maya”.  Without mentioning an end to this reality.

It seems this concept arose later, a chap named Micheal D. Coe wrote “there is a suggestion … that Armageddon would overtake the degenerate peoples of the world and all creation on the final day of the 13th [b’ak’tun]. Thus … our present universe [would] be annihilated [in December 2012]when the Great Cycle of the Long Count reaches completion.”  Armageddon (something to do with Gog and Magog as I remember!) and annihilation, it seems that Micheal D. Coe had a touch of the Dan Browns.   

Fear is the primary agenda of many of the 2012 ‘experts’ and ‘pseudo scientists’.  They have an alien mind-set to that of the ancient Mayans.  The attempt to fathom the Mayans connection to the universe and earth through the eyes of a modern mind will always fail.  We are too deeply affected by our societies consciousness, which is surely light years away from that of the ancient Mayans, the Egyptians, Hindus etc, etc.  We can only dream such things.

In front of the pyramid of the great jaguar, Tikal, Guatemala

We are left to marvel at their genius when looking at the ruins of their great cities, temples and pyramid sites, now being reclaimed by the jungles.  Many of these sites are still not excavated, covered in roots.  How many are left undiscovered?  How much do we still have to learn?  Surely it’s not about deducing, it is way beyond our system of reasoning.  These ‘secrets’ cannot be found by digging in the ground, but will be unearthed within ourselves.

The Mayans were not using the sciences as we know them, these institutions had not been formed.  The universe was their realm and the mind their laboratory.  The results are there to be seen, one of histories greatest civilizations with complex social structures, huge cities and deep understanding of the universe, nature and the human mind.

2012 has become a commodity, propagating hysteria and money.  Have you seen the movie?  Neither have I, but I get the picture.  2012 has been used as a marketing tool for individuals egos.  The actual date has never been agreed upon, interestingly on stele in Coba the date is, that’s either 41 octillion years (these are real number) years in the future, or maybe, in the past.  That makes it 3 quintillion (one followed by 30 zeros) times older than the age of our universe according to cosmologists.  That day is floating around within that window of time.  When?  Difficult to be sure.

The shamans that I spoke to in Guatemala had a clear message of peace and global togetherness; a hope to raise our collective consciousness and a return to a higher state of being.  The state of being experienced by the ancient Mayans.  No mention of an end; only a new beginning, the cycle continues.  In fact, it seemed that the Mayan people who are not looking for short-term financial gain by aligning themselves with this ‘phenomenon’ are using the increased awareness of their culture as a platform to spread a the message of unity with humanity.  Replacing a sense of fear with a message of universal love.

Depiction of Mayan God 'Quetzalcoatl'

I think some tend to forget that the Mayan people and culture is still alive today.  The great era, the epoch of the ancient civilization is long gone and the Mayan people have suffered greatly ever since.

The epoch was really over when the handful of Spanish (and Portuguese) Conquistadors arrived and decimated and pillaged the entire continent (that’s Central and South America).  Their work has been continued admirably by the Catholic Church and the greed of man, with a lot of help from the U.S.A.  Amazingly, against incredible odds, the culture lives on.  Mainly in Guatemala, which is over 90% indigenous Mayan.  There are over 6 million Mayans, making them the largest indigenous group in Latin America with roots stretching back over 2000 years.

There are sixty different dialects being spoken, traditional dress is worn and ancient traditions practiced.  This, like in most areas of our increasingly homogenized world, is under threat.  The neon, modern world is encroaching and many young Mayans are disillusioned with their heritage and lack of material opportunity.  They are enticed by the flashing lights of the capitalist dream, many selling their ancestral lands to rich Mestizo and U.S. land owners to squander their inheritance on motorbikes and modern clothes.

Colourful dress of indigenous women

Some Mayan villages I stayed in still had a matriarchal ruling structure.  The Mayan women are incredibly resilient and are holding the communities together.  It seems again, like most places in the world, the men generally lack intuitive wisdom, are racked with greed and are easily led and manipulated.

There are high rates of alcoholism and domestic violence.  All over Guatemala, I witnessed mothers and daughters helping their staggering men back home.  If money came into a family, it soon disappeared in a drunken binge.  The life of an indigenous man is tough, the plight of an indigenous women is tougher.

The Guatemalan government, with U.S. support, has committed acts of genocide against the Mayan people for over a 100 years.  See, but this is only a small reflection of the atrocities that the Mayan people s have had to face.  I have never been to a country where hope has been so close to fading out (I did visit in 2005, just after the tragic hurricane that claimed hundreds of lives, this will have had a huge effect on my experience).

This general air of hopelessness is only heightened by poor inter-tribal relations and a terrible history of violent crime within communities.  Without a common language, many elders do not speak Spanish, a cohesive civil movement has been impossible.  This leaves a tiny minority of mestizo (normally of Spanish decadence) to rule and oppress the masses.

Then, some light, I met Javier and Jose in the village of San Pedro on Lago Atitlan (“the most beautiful lake in the world” Aldous Huxley).  Two Tzu’tujil ( brothers who were running a small Spanish language school named Flor de Maize.

They are not only great language teachers but are real activists for social, political and ecological change.  They are offering hope for the new generation of Mayan children in the area.

Here is the website:

Javier and Jose are incredible, a true inspiration.  Taking on the dangerous and corrupt Guatemalan system requires huge amounts of dedication, bravery and strength.  Their methods are diverse social projects.  Organic gardening helps to set examples for and educate local farmers on traditional practices. moving them away from slash and burn practices that leave the land infertile and people hungry.   Reforestation, replacing logged trees and educating people about local ecology.  They also arrange for greater exposure of the Tzu’tujil culture via homestays and special events.

With friends and Javier (in red) above Lake Atitlan 2005 (that is the bald version of me with the crew cut and green vest)

Javier and Jose have also started projects to raise money for the schooling of local children.  They help the children daily with their homework and provide all uniforms and resources needed.  School fees are also taken care of.  There have been many success stories, I regularly receive photos of children holding certificates alongside proud parents.  Without this level of secondary education in Guatemala, you have little chance of escaping the hard life of a poor subsidence farmer.  Basic education is very poor and does not teach the children of their own dialect or culture.  As usual in San Pedro, this is where Javier and Jose step in.

Flor de Maize receives no grants from the government and it relies on tourists to enrol for Spanish language classes, or to get involved with one of their social projects.  They run hiking and camping trips up volcanos ( or prepare family dinners (with the lovely organic veg) open to all comers in their home.

Javier and Jose's family

I have fond memories of the guys at Flor de Maize.  Demis taught me Spanish under a tree near the lake (he tried his best anyway!) and Jose and Javier invited me each week to their family home for dinner.  Javier took the students for an overnight camping trip to a peak overlooking a row of simmering volcanoes (there is a fault line running straight up the country).  The sunset and sunrise up there will always colour my mind.

I lived with the local mayor, Joseph and his family in the village. It was a special experience.  They treat me like a long-lost son.  The family spoke mainly Tzu’tujil, but we muddled by with my broken Spanish.  We ate black beans and gorditas (small fat maize tortillas) which Josephs wife Rose and I hand rolled and toasted every morning in a lean-to.  Their son was a moody teenager, who listened to a lot of Eminem at full volume.  The family was completed by old granddad, who shuffled around the place chuckling and a blind cocker spaniel who wanted my blood.

The only English Rose spoke, always followed by a huge guffaw, was ‘Hello Lee Majors, the bionic man!’  This was her regular greeting for me, I was known around the streets as the bionic man.  I still have no idea where Rose got this from.  I can remember her in a traditional, brightly coloured dress, four feet tall, laughing her heart out at this.  I didn’t mind, I have been called worse.

It seemed that no matter what happened, Javier and Jose would manifest their dream of a brighter future.  Their regular emails show to me that things have certainly developing, a new premise has been moved into and the comments from students remain as positive as ever.

Flor de Maize is always struggling for funding and you will find opportunities for  donating on the websites.  A few pounds go along way in Guatemala and it will always benefit the children.

I am approaching 2012 with an open heart, mind and soul.  Wishing for an end to all suffering throughout the world and a greater understanding of each other; our planet and the universe, following the example of my Mayan friends and the words of our ancestors, “Let the morning come… do not be afraid.”

The first few minutes of this video are quite Hollywood, but I thought the Quiche shaman, Wandering Wolf’s, words are a fitting way to end:

To learn more of the 2012 phenomenon look here:

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View from a bus, Street Life 20:32, New Manali, India 28th July 2010


Untameable, vibrant, the view from this bus, the streets of India. Both wild and peaceful, chaotic yet working in a form of order. The concepts and models of the Western mind cannot fully grasp and appreciate the complexity of these streets.  The culture and society work on a totally different level.  6 months is nowhere near long enough to disappear and discover this land. Its a whirling, fantastic kaliedescope, a hallucination of life.  Reality stranger than fiction, challenging the imagination, inspiring at every turn.  A lifetime visa is needed (any ideas?).

People are all over India, more than a billion, doing everything, seemingly in the street. Cows impede pedestrians, sheeps swarm around traffic. The flock blocking my progress (as usual). Indian life glows warmly, full of energy, no dark sarcasm in this classroom.

Concrete monstrosities are being thrown up (buildings, bridges, walls, pavements……) by hand, under glaring flood lights.  Foundation supports are held in place by four men.  In the darkness and humidity the other buildings gradually crumble and decay.  Architectual nightmares.  Peculiar how humans can create such monstrous eye sores, such disregard for anything aesthetic.  Lumps of abstract concrete.  Existing amongst a jumble of electrical wiring, open drains, pot holes.

A thickly moustachioed man, with T-shirt stretched over his pot-paunch claiming, ‘this is what cool looks like’, flicks his bidi and it finds its target, a fresh cow pat.  Shop owners dust down their cigarette displays with little feather dusters.  Tinny Bollywood soundtracks float in and out of earshot.  Lord Shiva appears on rugs, posters, mugs, calendars and walls.  Omnipresent.  His blue face projecting blissful beauty and ambivalence.  When the going gets tough, the tough get mystical.  Spirituality, the pantheon of gods, governs and directs all.  Healing, saving, bringing wealth, protecting the traveller. 

Light bulbs hang down from the overhead powerlines, giving off a white light that taints everything.  All becomes black and white, a ’20’s movie feel.  Chai-wallahs look like ghouls standing over their bubbling pots.  One boy sells mixed nuts, the other cleans and repairs shoes, another is selling leather whips and drums.  Resourceful, bright, astute.  Many stand around, look around, squat down, laughing loud.

Rickshaws cut and buzz through the chaos like a knife through ghee, their drivers great dreamers.  Mainly dreaming up prices to charge the hapless tourist.  A young learner driver (12ish max) accelerates into a wall, wrecking the front of his new silver Suzuki 800 and almost wiping out a restaurant terrace area. The initial shock subsides almost immediately and the diners return to their animated chatter, occasionally looking over in a mocking fashion towards the hapless lad.  After a brief assesment of the damage (the front of the car is hanging off, the wall near collapse) there are handshakes and laughter, then his family of 6 pile into the car and they speed/ sway off into the melee.

A stick-like Sadhu with a steel trident, all grey dreadlocks, beard and peircing brown eyes, asks me for some money, then charras, then bananas, then my necklace….the mind boggles as to where these demands could end.  A three legged dog wobbles by, barking at the moon and stars, as a one legged man drags himself into the stuttering flow of traffic, riding a wooden cart with steel wheels (moving faster than my bus).  He takes exception to a Tata truck bumper, that narrowly halts before his head, and begins to rant and wave his arms.  Eventually he drags himself into a puddle and the waky race continues.  The sheep bleet, the cows moo, the pedestrians spit and the crescendo of car horns rises.

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