Finally into our New Abode

Yay! We are finally here and in a place we LOVE. Antigua is the perfect blend of activity and proximity to the big city, with the quiet natural environment we were looking for. It is so weird to be in a place where it feels normal to drive around a big SUV and run in carpool circles, but it has become part of our life adventure for us. We know that we have truly found ‘Home.’

The only drawback so far has been that the house came unfurnished (including appliances) with massive plate glass sliding doors all over the house. The unfurnished part could have been manageable, but an impossible expense for us right now with our current work / life situation (me being 7.5 months pregnant and already have taken off 4 months this year + the remaining 3 once Zai comes) and for the fact that the furniture here is utter crap. But the plate glass issue was unknown until Kurt went through the window the 3rd day in the house, causing quite a physical catastrophe on himself. He was just walking and walked casually through the door! I suppose for it is 10′ x 6′ and only 1/4″ thick, there is no way that it could hold his 6′ frame. We like to say now that he “took one for the team” and we are now quickly replacing all the windows in the house to avoid any further issues.

Here are some awesome pics of the furniture-less house. You can note the exceptional beauty in Kurt’s work. It has really soared over the last year.

Kurt’s studio is coming along nicely and is just a mile up the road in the main part of the town called San Pedro las Huertas. It will be featured shortly. If you are interested in seeing more or purchasing any of the work you see, please reach out.

 

El Artesano Wine and Cheese

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]There were a million and one reviews and people who have shared their story about El Artesano Wine & Cheese in San Juan. Starting with Joyce even before came to the Lake and then after we were here we heard nothing but great reviews. When my mom and Drew came for a visit we thought this was an ideal time to relish in a free day drinking and relaxing at this absolutely wonderful place.

Let’s start by saying that our dining experiences around the lake have been less than impressive. Now we have extremely low expectations and have found that while people seem to come here with great ideals and aspirations, the locals can’t match the culinary expectations and eventually the efforts fall short. It is not that they are incapable, but historically their food is very simple with light seasonings, so without consciously and carefully educating them you are often left with the local taste. El Artesano far exceeded our expectations here and any other wine and cheese concept in the world.

We really had no idea what we were in for – everyone said it was great, but that could mean a thousand and one things from a thousand and one personalities. We were very pleasantly surprised!

Walking into the entrance felt like we were going back in time to Italy, but with a modern, almost Brooklynesque edge. There were fantastic cocktails and unusual cheeses from around the world. The wine list was to die for with everything from bottles to glasses. The owner was behind the counter with an exacting era-specific hat, and apron with a butcher block table. Dried meats were hanging from the ceiling and the tables were impeccably set with blue-checkered cloths and tiny plates and napkins. The water came in clear jugs and the music was a blend of historic and modern parisian jazz.

The menu is robust and full of delicious offerings. Some with meat, some with light fare and all with unusual cheeses. We were told to only order 2 servings of the cheese platter so we could order other items to enjoy – and we are so glad that we did not order more – it was a HUGE portion. For 6 people 2 servings was more than enough with all the other items we ordered.

It was such an adventure and an extremely worthwhile experience.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][vcex_image_galleryslider thumbnail_link=”none” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”9999″ img_height=”400″ img_thumb_width=”200″ img_thumb_height=”200″ caption=”true” animation=”slide” slideshow=”true” randomize=”false” smooth_height=”false” slideshow_speed=”7000″ animation_speed=”600″ image_ids=”3799,3800,3801,3802,3803,3804,3805,3806,3807,3809,3811,3812,3813,3814,3815″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

La Fortuna Lake Atitlan Review

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We are BIG fans of La Fortuna.

We live here and we still wanted to spend the night! That has to say something, right?

The front building is expertly designed and appointed, setting the tone of some kind of Bali adventure. There were coffee beans drying out in the yard and a beautiful display of indigenous and fruit trees throughout the property. Those who have come to the lake know how rare it is to see mature trees, and La Fortuna is filled with them. Kat and Steve have done a brilliant job of designing their casitas, everything from the mirrors to the outdoor seating and bathrooms has been carefully planned designed and thought through.

From a food perspective we were happy to see that Kat and Steve have done a good job of selecting a decent wine list and considered tasty dishes which were executed beautifully. All my food allergies were accommodated for and Kat was extremely intelligent on the subject. We are looking forward to eating there again soon… even outside of staying there.

We highly recommend coming to La Fortuna, especially if you are looking for a quiet retreat in the woods surrounded by nature with your mate or family. It is beautiful!

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The Making of Silence

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]This was written a couple of weeks ago, but I haven’t been ready to share it. Honestly – depression was running ramped through the Brand Fam’s Casa Patziac feeling as though we had really made a tremendous mistake. What we found is that through moments such as these, we came together and united as a family… literally getting through.

Silence is creatively empowering, and while power and internet are two essential aspects of our livelihood, it stunts my creativity. I have seen over the past few weeks of in and out power and the past few months without internet, just how creative I can be. I would say I am learning to take lemons and make lemonade. Yay.

If nothing else, as Kurt says, “We have been given a huge bank of source material on the topic of power.”[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”Recent Musings from Days Without Power” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vc_accordion][vc_accordion_tab title=”Learning to Live Without Power, Internet, Phones and People”][vc_column_text]

I would venture to guess that it is due time to begin considering that we actually do live on a deserted island.

This morning around 5am, there was a boom and our power went out. It had been windy for two days, and finally ceased, and then this boom and a sizzle, snap crackle and our night light goes out.

When we actually got out of bed and confirmed the power was in fact out, I called our guardian. He normally says something soothing, but this time he said he would be down in 2 minutes and pointed me in the direction of the casita. Sure enough 2 of the power lines on our property have gone down and they must have just snapped under the pressure of the last few days. Yikes.

The guys came out around 11am to check it out, and I went up to look around. It is blocking the walking path completely with two looped wires laying down, and the rest is a mess within the trees, almost like a scribble in the sky. They are planning on checking this out tomorrow morning, which means that by Monday they will have a plan, and probably by the end of the week we will have power back. I have no great expectations.

We are literally alone, here and unless we want to pack up and go, we are checking ourselves into a weekend, or a few days without power, internet, communication, etc. Awesome.

We had plans, but I felt better canceling them, knowing our food was already going to go bad and that we didn’t have much to offer them by way of music, entertainment, etc. We can just exist in space and time, which is not our usual.

And we are giving it a whirl.

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In my current statement of mind, I am like a forgotten vessel in the bottom of a 1,000 ft. deep lake. We live in the middle of nowhere, without quick access to a town / community, and for days now we have been without internet and now without power. It has given me entirely too much time to think. I wish I didn’t have so much time to think.

Here we have have few acquaintances, few true comrades, and spend most of our days alone, together. There are no evening activities or places to eat out. There are no ambulances or police sirens, or the sound of traffic from cars and trucks. Voices from those on our trail behind our house or from kayakers in front of our house are heard bright and clear. Dogs and birds are heard vibrantly with an eco within our cove. Without internet, we have a lack of information of the world, and limited connection with our family, and without power, we have endless amounts of time.

The days, weeks and now months have gone by away from home, and the time that I promised to give towards my family, work relationships and friends has now extended into 6-months, and now it will be 9-months before we return home as a family, and even that trip might get pushed.

I feel truly disconnected and I really don’t need to be. There are lots of opportunities here for friends and like-minded expats. They are fun and do fun things together. And even when we have internet, I have noticed that I still have a lack of emphasis on connection. I don’t reach out to anyone. I suppose I am becoming a little hermit-like, and it is the balance of our fast paced life in the States.

I also think it is my way of protecting myself and my time from investing in a life here until we know what we are doing in the future. It takes a year to know a place, and 4 years to really make friends, and who knows if we will be here that long. I don’t want to spend unnecessary energy, or to have others spend unnecessary energy building something that will not last. I have done long distance friendships all my life, and I am done with that chapter. I am ready to settle down somewhere, have a significant lease and really settle in.

There is belief deep within that this is a true balance to our future life. This is the time to search internally and to bring ourselves to the next level of our businesses by cultivating our crafts. It is time well-spent, not wasted, and being hermit-like is exactly what we need to do right now. There is much time for friends and activity in the future, in a place we will remain, wherever that may be. For now, being a forgotten vessel at the bottom of the lake is okay. One day I will be found, and like any other treasure chest, I will be flowing with knowledge, freedom and confidence from within.

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I am not sure I can imagine a cloudy night right now, or being more isolated than we are and not being able to see the twinkling lights from across the lake, but after being without power for now 3 days this week, it is dark. Like darker than I can imagine. There isn’t a light in sight on our property and our batteries are waning on our flashlights and our candles are burning low (can you tell there is a Hanukkah story coming?).

I guess I have never really known what this feels like and it is unique for me to be without. It is also really sacred and a new experience which has given me much; it is endless expanses of soundless moments. Soundless if of course the abstract version of visual. We see much nature, but little else. It becomes a time where your sight kicks in and you see more of what you didn’t see before in your present, internal space (wow, I becoming woo woo).

Now, my ability to love this moment has shifted and I get to see something new within myself. At the beginning of being in Guatemala and experiencing this internal visual, I was scared and full of discomfort all the way up to the brim of my being. Now I am learning to love the darkness, knowing it my shadow of opportunity and the time I have to think and to be alone.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][/vc_accordion][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][vc_text_separator title=”Patterns Created During Silence” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vcex_image_grid grid_style=”default” columns=”3″ title_type=”title” thumbnail_link=”none” lightbox_caption=”true” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image_ids=”3022,3025,3026,3027,3028,3030″][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”Living with Solar – The Only Way!” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vcex_feature_box style=”left-content-right-image” content_width=”50%” media_width=”50%” heading_type=”h2″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image=”3042″]Really, we are never going to be caught dead without having a back up solution in an ’emerging market.’ We are fortunate that we already had a Guatemala City trip planned when things went awry… and it has taught us a good lesson. Always have a BACK UP!

Thanks to my step-sisters, we have a PowerGen which got us started. We have lived on that thing for the past few months when we travel, etc.

Solar GuateBuy-Me[/vcex_feature_box][vcex_image_carousel style=”default” item_width=”230px” min_slides=”4″ max_slides=”4″ items_scroll=”page” auto_play=”false” infinite_loop=”true” timeout_duration=”5000″ arrows=”false” thumbnail_link=”custom_link” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”500″ img_height=”500″ image_ids=”3035,3036,3034,3037″ custom_links=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M10YD8W/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00M10YD8W&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=XOJCBWHXMJ5ZCG7K,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M16KLM8/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00M16KLM8&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=ENR2YE5OB7PUM47T,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0085OB0IE/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0085OB0IE&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=CICH57YJR2BIYAW2,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HKK5VXY/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00HKK5VXY&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=O5Z5U3GL2REYTEEJ”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Casa de Joyce

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]For some reason we never posted photos of this amazing house. From sunrise to staff, it was the best of everything in Guatemala. There was a time early on, that we would have jumped at the opportunity to buy and put down roots here. But it was bad timing all around, and here we are now. New house in Patziac.

What makes Joyce’s house so special are her dramatic gardens. They are like none other we have seen. She has put time, care and love into crafting different terraces, planting a mix of indigenous and exotic plants and building something truly unique.

We were graced with 3 months in her beautiful house, facing San Pedro Mountain. Her house filled with collections from markets and local craftsman, and some unique features like her chest-high bed. She has some of the best artwork we have seen in all of Guatemala and a terrific staff. We felt at home in her abode and are grateful for her hosting of us. It came at a time when we needed a win here, and we found it at Casa de Joyce.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vcex_image_carousel items_scroll=”page” item_width=”230px” min_slides=”1″ max_slides=”4″ img_width=”500″ img_height=”500″ image_ids=”2494,2497,2493,2492,2503,2502,2500,2498,2496,2495,2510,2515″][vc_text_separator title=”Two Great Articles” style=”five” element_type=”div”][vc_empty_space][vcex_feature_box style=”left-image-right-content” heading=”Paradise Lost” img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image=”2504″]New York Times Article on Joyce’s House

Joyce Maynard found in a second home a sanctuary for writing, swimming and teaching workshops, until nature took it back.[/vcex_feature_box][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vcex_feature_box heading=”Your Own Piece of Paradise” content_width=”40%” media_width=”60%” image=”2522″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″]LA Travel Article 

As the boat glides through the beautiful waters of Lake Atitlan and around one last rocky outcropping, a dream comes true. Like a shining white gem, Casa Paloma stands out among the deep jungle greens while still somehow existing in complete harmony with its surroundings.

[/vcex_feature_box][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_text_separator title=”Different Views Everyday” style=”five” element_type=”div”][vc_empty_space][vcex_image_grid columns=”3″ thumbnail_link=”none” img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image_ids=”2511,2512,2518″][vc_empty_space][vc_text_separator title=”Related Videos” style=”five” element_type=”div”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/BpqXpzjHD4E”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/1Q5-CN952Fw”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/9KH-cBu30Es”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_text_separator title=”We Love Swimming Here” style=”five” element_type=”div”][vc_empty_space][vcex_image_grid columns=”2″ thumbnail_link=”none” img_width=”500″ img_height=”500″ image_ids=”2516,2517″][vc_column_text]The water at Joyce’s is amazing. The water’s edge is always cleared up and the dock has a very easy to use ladder, which have discovered is an anomaly here at the lake. Because of the lake rising, we have been able to really enjoy jumping in and not worrying about the waters undergrowth coming through. Just like where I spent my summers as a girl, the water here is refreshing, a little chilly and clear. We love it!

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/-sF01bsaoa4″][vcex_spacing size=”15px”][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/1SGIQ3SW8UY”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_text_separator title=”Who is Joyce Maynard?” style=”five” element_type=”div”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]Joyce is a writer who has invested most of her career towards romance, intrigue novels. She is best known for her recent movie Labor Day with Kate Winslet, and To Die for with Nicole Kidman. My favorite is her book written when she was freshly at Yale Looking Back: A Chronicle of Growing Up Old in the Sixties. She is also infamous for having an affair with J.D. Salinger who wrote the The Catcher in the Rye. And she is uniquely a San Marcosian vacation implant for around 15 years, living in New Hampshire and then California for most of her adult life.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vcex_image_carousel items_scroll=”page” thumbnail_link=”custom_link” custom_links_target=”_blank” item_width=”230px” min_slides=”1″ max_slides=”6″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image_ids=”2525,2526,2527,2528,2529,2530,2531,2532,2533,2534,6455″ custom_links=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062257390/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0062257390&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=XTXIAC3XKQ4BUP65,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1250046440/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1250046440&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=DJJZDV2PECCHBJF6,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007S7JXMY/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B007S7JXMY&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=74FI4GFDBZUWN37S, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00337KP9S/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00337KP9S&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=HREEZ4ALO6GKUGHH,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062313630/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0062313630&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=IPPG4DIVJSECSMSU ,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003L77WF0/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B003L77WF0&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=THWI6UXMK6FXXIOA,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0061994324/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0061994324&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=LQUN27RBNU2SWAPX,http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-keywords=the%20usual%20rules%20joyce%20maynard&linkCode=ur2&tag=racolifecom-20&url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&linkId=LPN4DSCJH6SMMB2E,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00N4JFTL4/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00N4JFTL4&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=CZXOAQ47PRZPGOCA,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004KABDJ8/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B004KABDJ8&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=CCZFX2UJEP32Y766,http://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=racolifecom-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B007S7JYGY”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Math Problems: Renting vs. Buying

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We want to buy a house so we have roots, and so our home improvements are not a waste, and we broke it down over the life of the mortgage to see if it makes sense. In Guatemala, you have to know that you are essentially throwing your money to the winds and you might NEVER see your house sell, or there could be an earthquake (no insurance), or the water could rise over your house. So, we started really breaking it down: See below.
Current State: Our rent is $600 and with that comes an empty shell of a house. In order to make it comfortable (at a minimum), we need to accumulate, build and develop. Yay, projects. Kurt and I are project people. That might be our biggest issue, but we certainly have fun with it and look at everything as a learning experience. Sadly, I suppose one thing that we do (always) is excuse ourselves from reality and just allow ourselves with the freedom to dream and execute fully.  Most people do not do this and I am often given shit about it from everyone in my life.
The Rationalization: Regarding the improvements, if you really look into what anyone would spend, anywhere, you will never get compensated for the kinds of improvements we are making, Kurt’s studio is costing us a whopping $1,800 and it is a custom built studio space which he would have to do even if he rented a studio in Harlem (and there it would be $8,000 to do what we are doing here and it would still be an unusable space for anyone that is not a painter, certainly not adding any value to a resale), a Sauna is $1200, Gardening is maybe $600 tops. We don’t even pay for our 2 full-time gardeners, so we are not putting that many resources into the gardens. I just want it to look better and to have a vegetable and herb garden. We are going to literally eat what we buy. That is two weeks food budget in NYC!
But we have been thinking about buying and what that would entail. Actually we were literally ready to sign on the dotted line here, but the owner was unwilling to sell at the time (different house).
The Breakdown: The asking price is $450,000 for the house we are in. If we are to double our rent with improvements, it would be roughly $15,000 a year, and we could live here for 30 years before we spend the asking price of the house (let alone the cost of 2 full-time gardeners year after year and the cost of on going house improvements… which are getting more expensive with the lake rising). If we live in this house for our actual rent (i.e. without the improvements) we could live here for 62 years. Can you believe it? Our rent per month in NYC is $3k. If we spend roughly double our rent to include our improvements we will still only spend 5 months of rent worth in NYC for the whole year.
The New Possible Plan: After really thinking about it, why do we want to buy? Why shouldn’t we just rent and try to get a 5-10 year lease somewhere? It seems to make a lot of sense to me, considering no one these days ever recoups the energy and money put into a house. And it binds you to a place. We are global family and being nailed down to the ground of a house doesn’t appeal much to either of us. But we don’t have a real home if we don’t buy. And we don’t have roots for our children to come back to.
Back to the Rationalization: So when you break down the improvements that we are making, we are just giving ourselves a little present. Here’s the example: If we use the sauna, like most do a hot tub, we are are looking at a pretty inexpensive gym membership, considering we have the lake for swimming and the hiking for a Stairmaster. Again, in NYC, Iza’s gym was a whopping $125 a month, ours was around $250 for the two of us for the basic package. That is $4,500 a year.
Who know which is the better way with renting vs. buying these days? We certainly don’t and it is a risk either way. I suppose it is my own justification, but there is what everyone calls “The Right Way”: the way to save money and to really spend energy playing it safe and investing in our future. And then there is The Brand Way: always making things more challenging for ourselves and investing in our now. But The Brand Way could mean buying a house…. you just never know.

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Finally a Place to Call Home

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/Z-UHvaYA2fk”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]There is much to be said for the end of Airbnb.com living. We have loved the adventure, but missed our ‘stuff’ and the familiarity that comes along with it. Not to mention, the $1,000’s spent on replacing broken kitchen tools and chotchkies along the way (this comes with the territory of having a toddler, and two very clumsy parents).

I suppose we have purposefully neglected to share our official plans, or updated on Ra’Co for the last month, so we could be sure that we didn’t have to back track if something didn’t work out. So, here you go: Drum roll please… We have moved to Patziac as of last Tuesday / Wednesday. We began renting the house on October 1st and since have been in a whirlwind state of construction projects, shopping trips and reorganizing. The house is coming along nicely and we are locked into a year lease. A super special thank you to Armand Boissy and his team at Atitlan Solutions for all his help in securing. 

Of course with the Brand’s, there is always a caveat: If the house sells (its on the market), we have to move. This has already happened to us in Beacon, so we have a feeling it will again. And… the internet is half the cost of the rent. We had a 12 meter tower installed in San Pedro, just for us!

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]Patziac lives in between Jaibalito and Tznuna on the public boat side of the lake. It is nested into the rocks and has it’s own little lagoon. We love it because it is quiet and very private; a far cry from our apartment in Central Harlem, with the crazy lady banging on the wall next door every time we moved or Iza cried (her exact words were, “I didn’t sign up for this.”), or even from the dogs barking and restaurants buzzing in San Marcos. We are blessed at Patziac with space, time, isolation and a house with everything we wanted… including a 6-burner gas stove![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]We have been taking photos and would love to share the beginning stages of our life here. We are deep into constructing Kurt’s new studio and Iza’s bedroom, as well as installing a Pizza Oven, a Sauna and a fire pit, along with a variety of other little projects. I am all about the gardening and have taken it upon myself to stand over the gardener for an hour every day and tell him what I like and what I don’t like. I think I am making him crazy, but all with a smile on his face.

Here we are on a Tuesday morning, 7 days in from our move to Patziac, construction underway to our new home, surrounded by our ‘stuff’, with warm hearts by our sides, in a place we can call finally home.

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Brand’s in a Box

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]I would say we have probably had more addresses than most. Between our offices and our homes we always have a sea of paperwork, littered with gazillions of complications. We are still going through multiple name changes!

But we are thrilled to have gotten 1 of the 50 P.O. Boxes in Pana. Seriously for a town of 50k people, they have 50 freakin’ post boxes!

[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing size=”60px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_feature_box style=”left-image-right-content” content_width=”50%” media_width=”50%” heading_type=”h2″ image=”1938″ img_width=”500″ img_height=”9999″]The Brand Family
P.O. Box 83
Panajachel, Solola
07010
Guatemala[/vcex_feature_box][vcex_spacing size=”60px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_image_grid grid_style=”default” columns=”3″ title_type=”title” thumbnail_link=”none” lightbox_caption=”true” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”9999″ img_height=”550″ image_ids=”1939,1940,1941″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Problems in Paradise? Nope, it’s just us.

Life is hard everywhere and requires real work to survive. There is no place left where issues don’t arise… we do know that. We are finding that the harder we push for something, the less likely it is to happen; likewise, the more we assume, the less likely any of those assumptions come true.

We are having tremendous issues with renting here. Not because the system is complicated, but because we are complicating the system. We can’t just roll with it and be simple. We have spent nearly 2 full weeks looking for a house to rent and when we found one that we loved we got into a war with one of the real estate agents, got our real estate agent to match the other agents price (which he was pissed about). Now we have been going back and forth with negotiation on the contract 3x, before receiving the cost of the internet service – It seems we have to rig an internet system across the lake which is going to cost us $1025 (USD) and $350 a month in support and service.

And that’s not all… We have to buy a boat because the local boat isn’t reliable in that location. We have to bring in our staff everyday by boat so that we can still function, and we have lost our road access in entirety. Yikes. Originally the rent was $600, but after you add in the internet, the boat and the complications, we are looking at $2400 a month, minimum. That’s maybe not a lot by NYC standards, but our goal is to save money… and suddenly we are heading upward in cost.

We could just rent a place in Pana (the largest city, here) and we could get a big house, in a nice, safe neighborhood for $850 a month, all in, with no hassle, no complication and relatively low stress. We would be 45 minutes closer to the airport, 5 minutes to the grocery store and have awesome internet.

And yet, we still want to live on the lake in the isolated single house village of Patziac. It is who we are and we are annoyingly complicated.

Casita Blanca Lago de Atitlan

Hello idyllic on all levels – name a cliche and this is it.

The sun is streaming into the windows to Casita Blanca as if I have never experienced sun streaming before. The birds are chirping and the waterfall next to our house is gushing. The lake off in the distance is glistening and we are alone in the jungle, deep in the mayan mountains 15 minutes to the nearest building or house on foot. We have a small yard, maybe an acre all around, and it is very well tended. The walkway to the house is serious hiking with no other access route and when you open the gate to the garden it is like paradise unfolding. The lack of access means our little house is a gem, and just as we wanted, very remote. You can’t hear cars, trains, buses or boats. In fact, you wouldn’t know anyone else existed on the planet unless you stood on top of the roof and looked out at the world below.

Iza is playing just inside the door while I sit on the veranda writing. She is so happy… toddling around and playing with new things in the cracks, little leaves which have blown onto the porch, a piece of grass and tugging at my pant leg. She is finally able to spread out and be in 1 place. We are so happy to know that we can give this to her for a little while.

We forgot to bring food with us yesterday when we got to our new home, so we had to venture out to the hotel at the end of our trail to Isle Verde Eco Hotel. “Isle” I have found out is pronounced like Isla Fisher, not “Aisle” as I had learned in French. The restaurant at Isle Verde is wonderful, and very accommodating. This space is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The grounds are astonishing and again well cared for. We knew the woman who owns Casita Blanca also owned the hotel and her vision was richly positioned in the planet. It appears she wanted to give the earth back to her guests in a well-designed and comfortable fashion. She accomplished it and then some.

From the new owner of the Hotel Raleigh (who has the name of one of our friends son and who is actually from Pensacola, FL which is where we have our mail house – in all our travels we have collectively only ever met 1 other person who is from there) we find out that in the last 4 years he has been on the lake the water has risen 20’. In the last 2 weeks during the rainy season it has grown 5’. This has taken out his beach and now is heading up and into his main reception area and kitchen. It is terrifying to hear, but interesting to understand from Raleigh that the lake works in an 80 year cycle in which the water grows and then it will fall (we didn’t ask where we were in the cycle). The Mayan calendar is very calculated and in some ways historically accurate. He mentioned that he thought he would have another year before he would have to build a retaining wall, but it looks like he will have to do it now.

There is seldom strong internet in any of the towns around the lake, but the ones that do have it use a satellite ping. There are no hard lines. When the clouds are in the way, the internet goes out. Great. Not really ideal for me, and especially now knowing that we are in a true eco house with only solar panels to power it and being here in the rainy season, we have pretty low expectations for a successful working opportunity. But rest assured – there is this incredible water taxi transportation system and I can go about 45 minutes on a direct boat or 1 hour on the slow boat to San Pedro (the cool hippy town with tons of great cafes and hard wired internet) or to Panajachel which is only 30 minutes away. I have begun looking for an office which is looking like we will rent a whole other house for around $500 a month. Kind of nutty, but worth it to know we can work.

More to come, but this is the start of our very great new life in Santa Cruz de Laguna, Lago de Atitlan.

Beacon, NY to Northampton, MA

So our next stop after leaving Beacon, NY was Northampton, MA. We wanted to stop over at Rache’s parents to have a big first birthday party for Iza and get in a little family time before we leave for Guatemala. As you can see from the previous blog, we had a blast at Iza’s birthday. Iza got in some great playtime with her cousins. And Northampton was beautiful in the spring. We spent the evenings on the back porch listening to the frogs and looking out over the marshland behind the house. A great way to prepare us for our next stop, a Zen retreat in Ithaca, NY.

 

Spanish Harlem Living

There is something to be said for living in a hotel. Outside the sea of bodega’s, laughter and honking, inside a clean and magical space. Water pressure, outlets on every wall, etc. We are definitely not roughing it living in Spanish Harlem. We have a beautiful 3 bed, 2 bath apartment to end our Spring 2014 NYC experience and are so happy here.

Part of the luxury of living in the city are the deliveries. We hardly have to use our cars (although we love to when we can), and we get deliveries 2x a week from Fresh Direct and our lovely local wash n’ fold. Iza has taken to these deliveries like a champ and obsesses over the boxes. We have made houses, castles and just let her move everything around. It is an awesome site to see!

As we near the close of our journey here, we are sad to say goodbye, but happy to know that Spanish Harlem has been our home for a few months. It is where we will most certainly come back to… the people are divine, the church bells always clanging and the bodegas full of the best of every type of mexican food imaginable… oh – and we get to live in a sort-of hotel.

At Home in Central Harlem

We are finally where we think we want to be. :) You just simply never know with us, but for now we are really happy in Harlem. The commute is killer for me – just about 20 minutes on the train (door to door). We are close to Emily, Iza’s Nanny, and the streets are packed with restaurants and clubs dedicated to the primary history of the community; Jazz. We love Jazz.

Our landlord is a Swiss designer who has gone home to spend 3 months with his new nephew, so we are in good company in his space – bright light, minimal beautiful modern century furniture and a host of interesting neighbors. I swear that creative people attract the most supreme neighbors.

So, in short, we will see. No idea what will happen next which is part of the fun of being in The Brand Fam!