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Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page

China’s Olympics Opening Ceremony

In Personal on August 10, 2008 at 7:06 pm

Wow. Amazing. HD video was made for things like this.

Boston music vs Houston music

In Music, Personal on August 9, 2008 at 4:58 pm

I’m moving to Boston in September, my first major move, and what I’m really excited is the music scene up in the northeast. Observe the difference between the artists I have in my iTunes library performing in Houston and in Boston for the month of September.

Houston

Houston.jpg

Boston

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Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, The Black Keys, and Robert Randolph vs. Sigur Ros, Mogwai, Ben Folds, Ratatat, Mars Volta, Damien Jurado, Weezer, My Morning Jacket and Ryan Adams.

Boston wins.

Guatemala Part II

In Personal on August 9, 2008 at 2:39 am

Chance Encounters

 


(Follow the link for HD resolution)

Guatemala is the first time I’ve ever travelled outside the country, so please bear with me as I continue to gush over the trip.

Perhaps the best thing about the trip was meeting people. Guatemala isn’t exactly the most common place to travel to, so the sorts of people we met were different than most you find living in suburban Clear Lake. It’s a funny mix of people finding peace and quiet and other people hoping to save the world.

Ben
We shared a taxi from the airport to Antigua with Ben. He and his wife had just moved from Boston (where incidentally I’m moving to in a couple of weeks) to Antigua. He went to the Harvard School of Education and his wife worked in public policy until they both got tired and wanted a change. So they packed up their stuff and moved to Antigua, Guatemala, where his wife now works with a group devoted to women’s health. Ben was very helpful, suggesting we hike Pacaya mountain and stay at Casa del Mundo around the lake.

Two girls at Ana’s house
So a lot of the people we met I don’t remember their name’s. I remember Ben because he gave me his business card, but these two girls we only shared a brief dinner and an insightful conversation. They were staying with the same host family we were. They were both volunteering for an organization called Safe Passage, which in a short seven years has created a school for the children living in the Guatemalan City trash dump. It currently meets the needs of several hundred students. One girl had been volunteering for about a year, the other was only there for the summer. We spoke to them about the difficulties of getting the families to get their children to go to school instead of working to make money for the family. We talked about how the program was started by just a college graduate and now has major contributions from all over the world. They told us how Laura Bush visited last year. When asked what was considered a success, they both replied every day was a success.

Michael and his girlfriend
At Casa del Mundo, a beautiful hotel around Lake Atitlan, they serve family style dinners for the guests. We sat next to a couple from New York. The girlfriend worked in advertising and Michael was in film. He had recently filmed in M.D. Anderson and St. Luke’s Hospital here in Houston. They were working on a logo for his production company, Maximon Pictures. Michael told us the movie, called “Open Road” would be submitted to Sundance next year. I just googled the movie title. It turns out this movie is not just a tiny indie-flick. It stars Jeff Bridges and Justin Timberlake!

Jason and his numerous Spanish school mates
When we checked into our hotel in Xela, Jason just happened to walking in and commented on my UT hat. Turns out he works at NASA once a month, and was spending time learning Spanish until NASA called him in. He invited us to a futball game with some of the other Spanish school students. He failed to mention there were about 20 other students. We ate dinner with them and got to talk to a few. We talked to a girl from…Denmark I think, where they pay 40% in taxes. But they get 5 years of college paid for. A couple was traveling from New Zealand, just taking time off to wander the world ’round and wanted to learn Spanish. One girl was a lesbian anarchist that lived with seven other friends and they shared all their money. I had never met a real life anarchist before. Hearing her talk about the ideals of egalitarianism and community reminded Lynn of Christianity.

The school they all attended was very politically active. They just recently visited an ex-guerilla camp, with soldiers from the civil war. They get guest lecturers to come in and talk about their experiences and the causes of the war. It sounded very enlightening.

Hippy man
The first ferry taxi we took from Pana to San Pedro, we met an older man who was very much a hippy. He spoke numerous languages, and was currently learning Mandarin. He delighted in practicing with us. He lived in San Pedro and offered language lessons, massages, and guitar lessons.

Hippy woman
I sat next to an older woman on the way to the lake. She had just returned from visiting her homeland of…Switzerland? Perhaps Denmark. The shuttle dropped her off at her new home in a random remote village in the Highlands. I asked her why she decided to move to Guatemala. She said she traveled around the world and just…stopped. And this is where she landed.

Guatemala Part I

In Personal, Politics on August 6, 2008 at 5:57 pm

Some background on Guatemala: Civil War

In 1944, Guatemala’s military president was overthrown and a new president was elected. The new president advocated social and political reforms. At the time, 2.2% of the people controlled 70% of all productive land, and only 12% of that land was actually being utilized. The new president decided to do something about it. Much of that land was owned by the United Fruit Company (UFC), which held significant influence in the country because it owned so much land, controlled the Atlantic ports, and owned large shares in electricity utilities and railroads. The government expropriated some of that land from the UFC, monetarily compensating the UFC the legally listed amount.

The poor peasants welcomed the land reform, while the upper class and military accused the president of Communistic practices, bringing about some social unrest. The expropriations began in 1953 and the UFC went to the United States for help. The United States’ incessant fear of communism and the UFC’s lobbying led to US action against Guatemala. The State Department first approved cuts in economic aid and trade, violating the Non-intervention agreement. The CIA then began covertly supporting rebel groups and dissidents in Guatemala, working towards the overthrow of the president. Before the CIA-led coup, the US ran an anti-government propaganda campaign over the radio to influence those in the Guatemalan military.

The president was overthrown in a military coup in 1954, and replaced with a military leader. This new leader outlawed labor unions and leftist political parties, radicalizing the left. With the military controlling the government, guerilla groups began organizing and from the 1960s till 1995, Guatemala was engulfed in civil war. 13 years ago, a peace accord was signed.

200,000 people were killed, with all sorts of human rights abuses including “disappearances”, torture, and massacre. A UN commission concluded 93% of the human rights violations were committed by the government. The indigenous Mayans bore the brunt of the abuses.

In 1999 President Bill Clinton apologized for US involvement, saying

It is important that I state clearly that support for military forces or intelligence units which engaged in violent and widespread repression of the kind described in the report was wrong

Parque Central Xela