Wasn’t expecting that this morning. I got up, checked my email, had a beautiful morning writing, went for a swim and took a few moments to take a warm shower. It was a good day, and all before 6:30 (Iza’s wake up time). When Iza woke we had a great time playing in her bedroom and then I got her ready for the day, and gave her breakfast. The staff arrived and I went to go sit at my computer to work and the power just went out. No internet. AGAIN.

We really can’t win – we either have power without internet or internet without power. Every second that we have internet needs to be useable time… and having a moment, a precious moment to myself, without working was clearly just stupid.

So, I melted down. Completely. It was one of those moments that maybe happen 2x decade, where I even threw something for effect (unfortunately I chose to throw my Ray Ban’s across the room for effect – breaking them apart). I literally damaged my spirit by losing control, and really ruined such a beautiful morning. All because I don’t have internet and can’t work.

45 minutes later, on the morning commuter boat, I arrived in Pana in a quiet and peaceful cafe. Not a bad compromise, and while it is not perfect, I feel like it is a good compromise. But… I am still shattered and angry at myself for the disruption, which was so thoughtless on my part.

DSC_0406I have to do better. I have to let go of such silliness, adjust my way of doing things, and instead of flowing with my creative spirit, flow with my internet and power opportunities. I am in an emerging country afterall… and I just need to learn to roll with it. And come on already, check out that view. Really, who cares about anything else?!


But in good news – Kurt just found me an office space in Pana. Stay tuned. I am going to have a back up PLAN!

Losing Connection with My Partner and the Magic 4-Hour Fix

It is no secret that married couples have issues from time to time. It is understood and expected, especially in times of duress. But boy o’ boy does it suck.

For 3 months nearly we have been on the road – this means that Iza sleeps between us because she is too disrupted to feel safe or comfortable on her own. We are absolutely exhausted from travel, complicated logistical arrangements and a kicking 1-year old who whimpers on and off all night long.

We also have had some pretty big transitions in our careers – Kurt leaving Chelsea and my decision to not seek a PhD at this juncture. I feel like I want to just be a mother, Kurt feels like he just wants to work although our current roles which we set in motion last summer are reversed. It is very difficult to shift a moving ship (especially one with lots and lots of heavy cargo).

We have a child, we live in an emerging country and we are taking a big risk that may or may not pay off. We are scared. 

Through all of this we have really lost sight equally of our friendship and our intimacy. We have stopped communicating clearly or thoughtfully and we have shifted away from a daily hug, kiss or cuddle to a weekly passing moment and daily arguments.

I would suppose last night was my breaking point. I have felt for these past 3 months that Kurt has almost “left the building” out of our relationship and into himself. I don’t exist right now other than a nuisance. On my end I have lost a sense of respect and stopped showing respect and thoughtfulness to him.

Honestly it has been rough. The conversation went as well as expected (terrible) and Kurt ended up sleeping on the couch by choice.

Today was our first date day in nearly 3 months and a chance for lunch, an adventure and time together. Needless to say neither of us were that excited going into it, but we gave it a go. 1st we headed off to look at our 3rd place of the day (the 1st too Clara and Iza came to) in a town called Jabalito (pronounced Ha-ba-li-to). It is meant to be a great area for hiking. The house was very sweet, but unbelievably small. No go. We ran into our friend Josie who makes the best Kombucha and fresh American bread on the lake (Guatemalan’s interpretation of bread is full on gross, so it is wonderful to have Josie at our farmer’s market). We immediately put in our order for tomorrow’s market.  #1 Moment: Making a simple decision together.

After the house tour we went to lunch by Josie’s suggestion. We walked through town and realized that this was actually the least developed area on the lake. It was the section 8 housing if you will. Everywhere there were terrible smells and shacks. Children looked a mess in the streets and dogs were scratching their flee-infested backs. We tentatively walked to the restaurant and went in. The stench from their garden smelled of old animal feces. We looked at the menu and both agreed there was NO WAY we were going to eat there. #2 Moment: Share in a laugh over an uncomfortable situation and work together to get out of it.

At this point we ended up at lunch and had a good conversation. Hard, but good. We talked about the things we needed and what we have struggled with over the last couple of months. We talked through how to stay on track with our plan and to continue to move in the right direction. It proved that we can communicate and that we can open ourselves up again if we are willing to try. #3 Moment: Have a thoughtful conversation which is both calm and rationale.

It was now about 1.5 hours from our departure on our adventure together. We decided to take the time to go to San Juan which is where all the locale artists (painters and weavers) work. We had a great time walking around the streets and looking at the beautiful weavings. The painting were fun to see and technically quite good, but it was no where near our style. So, we went back to #2 Moment every time a painter asked us what we thought.

We took a long walk through town and ended up at the Coffee Cooperativa which is the locale coffee plantation. It is organic and very interesting. We enjoyed a walk through the woods and various coffee plants all along the way and even walked on the highway together. We decided to take a Tuk Tuk back to San Marcos. We had quite the adventure instead of our typical boat ride… one that lead to maybe 50 potential near death experiences. #4 Moment: Be reminded how sad you would be if you lost the other person (morbid but important).

Funny enough the Tuk Tuk driver only took us 3/4 of the way so we had to walk on the road to get to San Marcos. We walked through town and even helped to negotiate a craft for an Australian guy together. This is now at about 3.25 hours so 3:15 and we still needed to catch the boat home by 4pm. It was PACKED at the dock and we ended up on a boat that was over full. There were even people on the roof. A definite first which led to the absolute slowest boat ever. We were late to get Iza and had to run to meet her Nanny. Sadly we got to the door and no one answered at our new Casa. We don’t have our keys yet, so you can imagine our panic. We figured out that she had probably gone back to our house thinking that we had maybe gone there in our delay, so we set off for home. #5 moment: work together to resolve a major issue / concern.

Long story, but a necessary path for a jump start towards recovery. I love this man, I know he loves me and in our 4 magic hours together we had 5 precious moments which hopefully brought us part-way around the circle and back to being “us” again. I’m sure many problems will arise in our life together, but at least we are building a foundation to come back to.


Trouble in Paradise – Shocker

When you are a Brand unexpected moments seems to follow. Most of the time they are good and Although after the past 20 years of unexpected moments as a Baird and an Uchtman, we both believe we are so consistent these unexpected moments they have become expected in some ways.

Drum roll please… We are moving, again!

A series of problems in our current house including but not limited to: 

  • Fungus growing on walls
  • Power caput for 3 days running and no refrigeration (required for Iza’s medicine, oh and food)
  • No internet
  • Kurt breaking his toe
  • Running out of water
  • No hot water (other than the bath)
  • Running out of propane (so not hot bath)
  • Scorpions
  • Mold everywhere so 2 of our 3 bedrooms are rendered useless (i.e. Iza has to sleep in our room)
  • Long rocky path, sick baby

So, we have to go. It is just not safe or smart to stay here. We need to be able to get into town to a doctor or a hospital or whatever we need it is not good to be on such a rocky, narrow path. It is also not good to have any of the above occur.

We have scrambled to find a casita which is local to Santa Cruz so we don’t have to move too far for the next 2 weeks. Our nanny Clara’s husband Jose works at a place called Casita Santa Fe and the owner Lily is from Mexico. Should be a great respite with good internet, beautiful grounds and a safe walking path direct to the boat. It makes more sense.

But the question still keeps coming up. Why do things like this keep happening to us? Is it our karma? Are we too idealistic? Is it something we are doing wrong? Probably all of the above.

We have moved around a lot. We are spastic in our changes and decision-making. We certainly are difficult New Yorkers to the highest level and demand the best. We are entitled in our approach to everything. Oh yeah, did we mention we are American? 🙂 (Kidding of course)

In a way we are glad to have life’s most interesting adventures because of our potential misgivings. When life throws us lemons, we ABSOLUTELY make the best lemonade possible. We are after all Brand’s and we have had a lot of experience! We will see how this move goes and perhaps in another few days we will have another new path to go down… but for today we are psyched to know that in the morning we have another adventure waiting.



Shopping in San Pedro La Laguna

Today, we had a very fully packed adventure with lots of collection and general housekeeping items to get off our list. We met around 7:30 with our the gardener Mario who also cares for Isle Verde Hotel. He came to help us plan out our stay and to show us around the Passive House we are living in. It was fun because the information and planning was conducted via hand gestures. He literally doesn’t know anything more than “Hello” and “Thank You” in English and we hardly know anything, so it was quite entertaining. I have decided that everyone should learn Sign Language in the 1st year of life. It is truly the only International form of communication. Thanks to our wonderful friends from the Zen Center Josh, Leah and Josiah we are able to understand the principles behind effective gesturing. The best two pieces of the visit with Mario were receiving a TIGO stick (see the post on the Chicken Bus to find out the significance of this stick) and hiring a nanny / housekeeper. For the nanny / housekeeper we have agreed to pay Q.80 ($55) for 5-days a week for 8-hours a day. This equates to ~$220 a month. I think we both fell over when we found that out. Iza will spend the mornings with her daddy while our “Chica” (as Mario refers to her) cleans and does our laundry by hand. She will then switch over mid-day to watching Iza so Kurt can get some things done. We are excited because she knows absolutely NO ENGLISH and this will force us to learn it. Ana (our landlord) has known Mario for years and trusts him, so we trust him with his selections. His wife Marta and their little 3 year old are coming tomorrow to help set up our new “Chica” and assist with hand gestures (we assume). After our meeting we bustled off to Santa Cruz’s main dock to get a water taxi to Panajachel. Now, we are not just able to walk out our door and down the street to catch our taxi or subway. We have to brave the woods, cross the waterfall and head through many walking paths weaving our way down through the jungle. There are a few other gates and paths along the way, but this is definitely a desolate, single line walking path. Our 20-minute walk ended on a soccer field crafted in a big open space. Of course it was in very poor condition, but nonetheless it was ready and waiting for a patron to play and had two goals and two team boxes. We walked through the field ended up on what used to be the main road. Now the road is under water by about 12’, so we walked on the 2-board plank (maybe 24” wide, rickety and slippery from too much rain) which is elevated around the perimeter of the Santa Cruz lake front. As we walked and looked to our left back at the land, we were sad to see the beautifully tended gardens and original stone walkways inaccessible due to the water height. It is a world beginning to go underwater and nearly every house (there were only 6) had a team of masons building retaining walls for temporary protection from the inevitable. This path took us to the main embaracado which actually sat on a road with tuk tuks and a truck. There was a tiny fruit stand and another 2 more hotels. We saw signs for Spanish lessons available and spent some time talking to some people. It looks like it is roughly $7.50 per 1 hour session with a 1 on 1 teacher. Part of why we came to Guatemala was to learn Spanish, so this is a very important piece of the journey. It was fun to talk about the possibilities of having 6-weeks here to work with the same teacher and really get somewhere with the language. We got on the boat to Pana and after 10 minutes of waiting and finally losing patience I said, “What’s the hold up?” Again was the answer that we needed 10 people to go (so 8 more). This boat had more room, but with just the two of us (Iza doesn’t count) on the boat, I was not encouraged to keep waiting. Just as I was about to lose it on the guy (I am still trying to remove my high-octane spirit from my mind), another boat pulled up going to San Pedro. We decided to take the alternative to go to another town which we heard had a Health Food store owned by an American (low expectations, but excited nonetheless). We jumped on and we were off. Pana is about 30 minutes or so by boat and should cost around Q.10 ($1.20) or Q.15 from Isle Verde, so our expectation was that this might take a few more minutes. At around 50-minutes of transport I started to get antsy. It was beautiful to see the homes and Kurt and I were able to check out the homes that we had seen on AirBnB and to see some of the other homes which are not mostly under water. It is decided that if we stay we will have to buy deep in the hills and anticipate being on water front property in the next few years. It took about an hour or so in total and Q.25 per person to get to San Pedro. WOW! So much more than we expected. We were on the local boat which stopped anytime someone flagged them down at any private or public dock. We now know we need to get on the fast boat. When we got off we headed up the steep hill to the top which took us to the Mercado which is an open air market. Mostly tomatoes which was odd, but there were still vendors. We decided to have lunch and then head out in search of our goods. Of course the lunch spot that we wanted to find didn’t come up on Google, or at least Google couldn’t figure out how to get there even though it had a dot where it was meant to be located, so after wandering around in circles we took a tuk tuk. We ended up going back up and around to the market and heading back down through the calles (avenues). We were literally 1 block off when we got the tuk tuk, but the driver took us on a ride without our knowledge. 🙂 It was humorous when we got off. The restaurant was in a very european set of connected alley’s which created an intricate walking path with incredibly cool cafe’s and bars. Lots of wifi options are available and several Spanish schools. This town is very large and apart of the mainland, so there are lots of opportunities here for working – if I want to take the slow boat to China and back to get here. We found a music shop after lunch and scored Kurt an acoustic guitar for $55 and a real Xylophone for Iza (she likes it, but I love it). Then we went and did our shopping at the market getting tons of rich looking veggies and the essentials like beans, chickpeas, rice, spices, etc. We found also toilet paper, trash bags and tupperware at the Supermarket across the street. The term Supermarket in this case is used as a loose term for a 20’ x 20’ tienda (small store) with a variety of packaged products – mostly processed crap. We knew we wanted to go to the Health Food Store, but again we had very low-expectations, so we wanted to get at the least the essentials prior to going since it was right by the dock. The one item we didn’t find on our list was a cutting board. We went to a million places and asked with no luck. At this point there was a shelf-life with Iza. She is in this new whining phase where she screeches at the top of her lungs and then goes “Huh, huh, huh, huh. Bluh, bluh, bluh” and then screams again. We can’t wait for her to tell us what is actually going on in her head. So we get to the Health Food Store with little time to spare and it is nearly 10’ x 8’ wide. There is one metro rack through the center and a rack on the left and a wooden spice rack on the right. There are a few tables and a pastry case out front. We started looking and almost cried. This deserves its own post, stay tuned. We got back on the boat and while we had originally planned to go to Panajachel, we had gotten most of what we needed, so we decided to head home. While on the boat we meet two very nice Americans staying at Isle Verde and one was Puerto Rican who spoke Spanish. He communicated where we were going (as did I in my Spanglish) to the boat attendant. When we got off we were expected to pay Q.25 / head and he and his partner only had to spend Q.20 / head. I said, “What?!” in a very annoyed manner and Kurt said, “Its the English-speaking up charge honey.” I didn’t fight it. We set off for our journey to our home, we managed to piece together our new kitchen and Kurt started a fire. We had our first proper day and now night in our new home. It was brilliant. We feel home and happy here.