Guatemala with Kristen Neal Part 1
I’ve been waiting so long to share this post. I’ve always been interested in doing a podcast, and while I must wait a little bit because of technology hiccups, I’m determined to get this post out. So, what can I say about my wonderful, amazing, thoughtful, energetic friend Kristen Neal. Well I can say all that but truthfully, she is a one of a kind people. How we met was through the social world of Instagram.
I was intrigued about her Instagram page. How I stumbled upon it was I was searching for creative black artist around the tri state area. I’m always intrigued about people creativity and wanted to see what was out there. That’s when I saw this energetic person doing Yoga. But I was also intrigued by who was the person behind the camera taking the pictures. So, being the curious person that I am, I was like who takes your amazing Yoga pictures? Well low and behold she said “I take them.”
Me personally I’m always blown away by people who can take amazing self portraits of themselves. I told her keep up the good work and I loved her positive message on yoga, health and living. But soon there after we got up for some coffee and she was telling me all about herself and why she does Yoga and wants to travel.
I told her and she even told me go after your dreams. I’m slowly gaining my confidence and skill to become the best photographer, creative individual, tech teacher, speaker, and learner I can be. Kristen is truly blossoming into the best version of herself she can be. She is a go getter, a traveler, a sightseer and doer of good and helping with the peace corps.
So lets dive into the world where Kristen Neal travels….
Bye for now friend…
Our last hangout together before she left.
EE: Tell me a little about yourself.
KN: STILL FINISHING...
It’s always the hardest to talk about yourself. I start doing yoga in high school. Four years later, I began teaching.
I grew up in a small town called Wilmington. I started to learn the most about myself when I began to attend Cab Calloway School of the Arts, an art school located in the west side. There I learned creativity. Now I work in the field I studied in with a bunch of intelligent individuals from all over the united states!
EE: Why Is it good to practice Yoga and also Yoga while you travel?
KN: Yoga is such a fantastic practice to have. I am so excited that it has been picking up speed in the past few years! Yoga is a way of life and you start to learn this when you grow more deeply into your practice. It isn't just the asanas (positions and flow from different positions), it is what you are doing with your breathing and how you think. Are you thinking about exactly what you are doing in this current moment? Thinking in the moment is mindfulness. It often helps you to destress when you think about where you are in space currently. But like I was saying about breathe, I have felt heart physically beat more gently when I slow my breathe. Every action that you do has a reaction. That's what I love about yoga. It is versatile enough that you can do it everywhere. There are great walking mediations that you can do when you are walking to your house, or even small flows that you can do in an airport. My favorite thing to do when I am stressed or nervous, (which often happens when I feel lost in a new space) is to think about my breathe, it is guide book into how you are feeling. When you are nervous your breathe is shallow. Changing how you breathe can also change how you feel. So I like to take deep breathes feeling the air come in and out of my lungs when I am in times of nervousness.
Image courtesy of Kristen Neal and Evrydayislvly
EE: What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
KN: Living in Guatemala for 6 months, I think I have normalized the things that I see here. What surprised me and continues to surprise me is the amount of people I see hanging off of moving vehicles! Ayudantes, the people who collect the fare are constantly hanging out the front door old recycled yellow school buses that have been converted into public Transportation buses. Trash trucks, pickup trucks with many bags of trash almost always have one other person on top of the tall pile of trash bags helping the other worker to pile on top other bags that he scoops up from the neighborhood. And the person on top doesn’t leave from beginning on top of a large pile of trash bags when the pickup begins to move to the next neighborhood.
EE: How long did it take to pick up some of the language?
KN: I began taking Spanish classes in High school. I also took classes throughout community college and university for fun and to learn more about grammar. I found that my speaking skills truly began to enhance during my time in Guatemala, when I was surrounded by Spanish and had to force myself to speak the language even when I wasn’t comfortable. While in the states, I made it my job to practice Spanish from the people in my community; people of Mexican, and Puerto Rican heritage. There are many people in Wilmington, Delaware whose first language (or only language) is Spanish. If you currently a language learner, I wouldn’t worry about the length of time, keep studying and practicing verbal Spanish until you have achieved the level of fluency you wish to be at. I encourage everyone to learn a new language, it is challenging at times, but it opens you up to many new, different, and fascinating cultures and a world of new people.
EE: What was the strangest thing you ate?
KN: While traveling in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, I had the opportunity to try chapulines, fried grasshoppers! If you don’t look them in the eyes, they taste like chips!
EE: What was the funniest/strangest/most insightful thing a local said?
KN: Locals here love to comment on my appearance. Although Guatemala has a population of black people (Garifuna) on it’s pacific south eastern department of Izabal, I am generally the first black person they have interreacted acted within their entire life. This was something I thought I had prepared myself for but nothing can truly prepare in becoming even more of a minority in a foreign country with a different language. I think the most hilarious most strangest thing I have heard were two different experiences. I was out during a parade with my host family when she saw her friend and wanted to introduce me. I said it was nice to meet her and then she began to tell me how much she loved black people and who they are so beautiful. She proceeded to tell me my hair locs (affectionately called “rastas” here) were so beautiful. I had a similar experience to this when I was meeting another friend of a local. We were all seated drinking water in a beautiful ranch styled house in el campo, when the woman stared me down and proceeded to tell me how she thought black people were so beautiful. She told me she would have married on but that there are none on this side of Guatemala. This has been the ongoing rhetoric for me here. That and that people don’t see dreadlocks often and I often get very loving comments on my hair.
EE: Where would you revisit? Would you ever move to any of those cities?
KN: I would revisit Jamaica! I visited this country under challenging circumstances, but its beauty was so great that I had an amazing time with my family. There was a beautiful location where island water spilled into multiple large craters and near by pools called Blue Hole. I have never seen something so beautiful in my life! The water was blue and there were so many waterfalls! Also, as a black woman, there was something so empowering about visiting a country with a large population of black people. Of all the beautiful countries and cities that I have visited, I think nothing is like home. I probably would always call some place in the USA my home. I would move to these places for temporary and elongated stays but being close to my family on the northeast coast will always be home to me.