The Circus

In Guatemala, life is surprising, shocking, funny, tragic, uninhibited.

Health and safety and ethics.

Some things that the developed world would question or condemn are celebrated, or accepted there. And vice versa. Every day allows me to question my morals  and my values in a way I never have to at home. Teenage pregnancy – condemned in the UK, celebrated in El Paredon. Turtle egg eating – same. Drinking alcohol – condemned in Guatemala, celebrated in the UK. Families living apart – same.

Before I left to come home for a month, the circus came to town. A great night out for only Q10 (80p) I shot a video below of a clown with his son. Is this funny and entertaining, even amazing? Is it abusive? Is the kid happy? Seeing the family together wandering around town, they are together, loving and just trying to make ends meet like every other Guatemalan.

Now I am home, sitting safely by the fire in my parents house in Scotland, rain drizzling down the window pane, listening to the grandfather clock tick and looking at recipes with my mum.

Ah what a different life. I am trying to work out which life is the better one for me.

3 days home, I am still searching for the bin to put the toilet paper in, still revelling in a hot shower without sand or frogs, savouring mouthfuls of warm brown bread, fruit cake, cheese, appreciating  being cared for, loved and the humour and warmth of my family.

But I already miss those incredible small people running out of their homes calling my name, big open hugs, a big sense of home created by being part of a community, the everyday adventures in a life that values living, not just working.

At the doctors today, she told me the brutal facts about the dangers of contracting dengue again. Five tubes of blood were taken from my hiding vein, to be sent to some tropical medicine clinic ‘down south’ when I will be given serious advice from a Western expert about living in a dengue area again.

So let’s just wait and see.


Cake face


Today was Carla’s birthday.

We had a party. Surprise balloons. Musical statues on the street. Lots of cake, which Carla had to stick her face in. Kids going mad on fizzy drinks, a marching band fresh from practice. Fishcakes for dinner.

And we said goodbye to our friends:

– Bianca who will be taking over our projects during September, when Carla and I come back to the UK to refresh, see friends and family and think about La Choza Chula (the new name for our workshop – ‘the cool shack’) Part Two

– Oliver and Lynn – environmentalists who became surf buddies and laughing buddies and who made frames in our workshop to hang our jewellery using special knots

Happy Birthday Carla! You rock girl! xx


When I was in Rio de Janeiro three years ago, I came across a man working from a little shack by the side of the road. His shack was full of treasures – all wood and plastic junk ready to be recycled and transformed into magical people and animals (check out the first three photos.) I fell in love with the little sculptures, crudely nailed together, and knew at that moment I would one day teach kids how to make them somewhere else in Latin America. The other day we had our first robot workshop and here is what we made.


Recovery from Dengue

My calves look like a still from CSI

and my thighs a satellite view of Mars

blotched blottled capillaries waving up to the skin

and i have reached a boredom which can only lead to creativity

six days in bed

i now drag round dead weight legs

but my mind is buzzing

and the sweats have stopped

and i look at websites and uncover old dreams

and put my positive powers into

raising my platelet count so i can leave my prison room

walk free

and never have to see another tray of hospital food

Hubi’s art…from my hospital bed

This post is dedicated to the very special and lovely Hubi, who flew back to Austria today after a month in Guatemala. For the last few days he’s been looking after me in Antigua whilst I’ve been struck down with Dengue Fever (thankfully recovering in hospital now and jelly for breakfast + cable TV = luxury!).

Hubi made a whole new range of products for our tienda and inspired us and the kids and the whole community loads with his passion and creativity and humour. And who made me a bed in four hours from old pieces of wood! Here are some of the amazing products he made – all from things he found…and lots of superglue! The seed and sand rings and pumice stone turtles we are definitely going to make more of.

These are light drawings that Hubi made with a long exposure

And a shark illustration…

He is convinced my surfing will improve leaps and bounds if I use a long board instead of a ‘surfer chic’ short board, so I have promised I will do (for at least a week). Safe journey Hubi and hope to see you again soon….

Now…back to getting better…(and trying not to look too hard at the volcano paintings on the wall when my fever starts up again…..)

Blog at

Up ↑