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Birthday lunch!

 

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Hilarious sign at lunch

 

So, it’s been a unique 34th birthday.  I crossed the border from Guatemala into El Salvador.  I upheld Asian stereotypes by devouring Chinese fast-food at the first multiplex mall in months (desperate times, desperate measures).  And as I write this, amateur electronic dance music is pumping, while fire dancers are honing their craft right outside my door. The smell of kerosene and salt is thick in the air.  I think I might have too little armpit hair (and too much clothes) for this crowd…
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Me inside my room wondering whether they made stronger earplugs. You can see the fire dancers just outside

Marc and I arrived at La Tortuga Verde in El Cuco on our shared birthday, a few days before the Equilibrio festival started.  It gave me the chance to make friends with the early birds here for Flowtopia, a workshop for flow arts like hula hoop, poi balls, dragon stav, etc., which are then lit on fire…super cool and super hippie.

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Firedancers from Flowtopia

Most of the people at Equilibrio are from Bushwick, Brooklyn, a super artsy, hippie/hipster, burner type of neighborhood.  It’s like being at a resort or summer camp with your closest hippie friends or discovering where all the Burning Man people go for the remaining 51 weeks of the year.  I’ve never bonded with so many different (read: right-brained) types of people: DJs, massage therapists, and circus people.

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Me and Benjamin or a pirate

It’d inaccurate to say I would never have met these type of people in San Francisco – it’s just that we wouldn’t have hung out in the same section of Dolores Park. Or I would have just watched them from a distance, balancing on their slack lines and munching on their special brownies, while I mixed bootleg mimosas.
The fact is, I’m straddling two worlds.  I no longer feel like a preppy professional, but I’m not that good of a hippie either.  Though I’m not that big a fan of showering, especially when it’s cold, I typically crave one a few days before the hippie body odeur sets in.  I can’t go many days without brushing my hair, which definitely prevents dreadlocks.
Being a hippie is not easy for a germaphobe like me.  I’m nervous about sharing drinking vessels during quasi-tribal ceremonies (like cacao or ayahuasca) and dirty bare feet gross me out.  I do however like spiritual discussions that include phrases like “gifts from the universe,” “manifest,” and “surrender.”  I’m also having a tumultuous relationship with money so not a very traditional ladder climber either.  As Himilce likes to tell me – I’m kind of a hippie already.
I actually find it exhilarating to go between hippie settings (like the Yoga Forest in Guat, this festival in El Salvador, and Burning Man) and yuppie cities in the States (like SF, LA, Boston where I have friends and family living a more traditional lifestyle). It’s like alternating between the relaxing heat of the jacuzzi and the invigorating cold of the swimming pool.  Switching accentuates the salient points of the other.  Culture shock is the spice of life.
What’s the opposite of zen?
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Equilibrio workshop schedule to give a sense of the hippie/burner vibe

On the first day of the festival, I went to a workshop called“Acu-meditation,” a mix of acupuncture and meditation.  Sounds relaxing, right?  Well, it was the most un-zen-like experience I’ve ever had.  Imagine this: I’m lying under a palm tree with a needle in my forehead and two in each ear, trying not to be paranoid about a coconut falling on my head…at least it’s pleasantly in the shade until 30 seconds after needle placement, the sun breaks through the spotty palm leaves and proceeds to uncomfortably burn my face.
No matter, I think.  Just breathe through it, practice vipassana meditation, scanning the body from head to toe monitoring the sensations.  Hmmm…that’s weird, kind of feels like an ant crawling up my leg into my pants.  Just going to observe the sensations.  Wait, I think an ant has literally crawled into my pants and ouch! now, it is biting the shit out of my ass.  Ack! I’m supposed to be relaxing, and I can’t make any sudden movements due to aforementioned needles in head.  I grab my ass where I think the ant is and clamp down.  I hear a little crunch of exoskeleton and feel a quick tinge of remorse since I’m at a hippie festival doing a quasi-Buddhist meditation.  Oh well, if it’s my ass or the ant, I’ll pick my own ass every time.  Brings a whole new meaning to CYA.
I hold onto my shorts and the ant in my right hand until the meditation finally finishes.  When I stand up after the needles have been removed, an ant falls out of my pants, lays still for a second, and then gets up and walks away.  I feel like I need to meditate to unwind from that meditation.
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My masterpieces from “Drawing Meditation,” where we lay in hammocks listening to Gregorian chanting and then experimented with charcoal. Thanks, Connie!

Down dog as a way of life
As a perfectionist, I tend to slam from guardrail to guardrail, pendulum swinging between extremes.  At this festival, I found a less dizzying approach to life through yoga.  Yoga teachers always talk about finding your edge where you’re pushing yourself physically but not so much that you get seriously injured.  The edge of your comfort zone is where the magic happens…  As an all-or-nothing, work-hard-play-hard perfectionist, toeing my way to the edge was terrifying.  I discovered that curiosity is the vehicle, because it allows you to enjoy the journey vs. being too focused on the goal or letting perfectionism and fear of failure deter you from trying.

 

More burner stuff

What do you do at festivals?  Yoga, workshops, and dancing…lots of dancing!  I thought this was a pretty cool technical difficulty!

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What's a festival without something burning at the end?

What’s a festival without something burning at the end?

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Hippie opening ceremony

Hippie opening ceremony

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Renata making an "elfin chic" leather skirt while downing a margarita!

Renata making an “elfin chic” leather skirt while downing a margarita!

 

Seen around La Tortuga

In the summer months, they usually have tons of turtles hatching…a small crew appeared there on the day I left…
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Just an idyllic walk on the beach, with rifle-wielding security.  #thirdworldrealitiesimage

Tough love:image

I spent a lot of time lounging at the tables.  The food wait was epicly long and the conversations epicly interesting, so I found myself spending 7 hours at a time, sweating into the plastic beach furniture.

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Being grateful to be alive
 
I had amazing sunsets on the Pacific Coast of El Salvador…makes me happy just to be alive another day!

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Surprise!  Food pics:image

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