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A New Maya Princess Gets a Basket Full of Princess Clothes!

This is Samuel and Estella and their new baby girl! They live in La Colonia in Puerto Morelos. la Colonia is the more "local" part of this quaint beach town. Its across the highway where the homes are cheaper, the street food is fabulous, and families take time to hang out together.

Being able to give a baby bath-tub filled with clothing and goodies for this little doll and her parents was so much fun! It was a total surprise to them and they were overwhelmed with appreciation. I feel so lucky that I get to do this and that i get to be part of their lives. Samuel works as a scuba diver in the area. He leads dives and shows people both the amazing reef here and the underground water-filled cave system the locals consider sacred. Such a cool job!

If you are visiting Puerto Morelos, maybe you will get a chance to meet this lovely family. In the meantime, enjoy the photo and feel the joy!

hugs to all

having so much fun,
laura

for more about The Happify Project and what we do, g…
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Beauty in Poverty: Images in Mexico

Have you ever been drawn to things without a definable reason?

Its at a deeper level than the intellect and a flood of emotion and power rises up from in your core and overwhelms your senses. Kind of like your spirit knows something, understands something that your mind does not. And when you come into contact with that thing, your spirit is moved and it communicates its desires in waves of energy that run through you bringing tears to your eyes and breathlessness to your stomach and an interior knowing that you have brushed against something of utmost importance.



Its like that for me when I visit the poor. I am only using the word poor for your benefit because it conjurers up an image in your head that is the image I want you to have. You see ramshackle houses with dirt floors and no running water. You see chickens running in the road and skinny dogs sleeping in the sun and rusted tin roofs and scattered rolls of barbed wire and car parts and toilet seats and piles of broken rock an…

Where Real Joy Hides

I have not written much lately because something has been stirring in my heart that I have not been able to put on paper. I have been working over the last months to try and bring the secrets of happiness to light. But in the midst of that journey, I found something was desperately missing. I wracked my brain trying to pinpoint it. I searched deep within myself trying to identify what didn't feel whole.

And now I know I finally put my finger on it.

From the words of the song Hallelujah, originally by Leonard Cohen:
it's not someone who's seen the light, its a cold and it's a broken hallelujah Let me tell you a story...
There was a young man who lived in the remote islands of Panama. His name was Nigel. His mother gave birth to him when she was very young and was unprepared to care for a baby, so his grandmother raised him. When he was in his late teens, the old woman passed away. Now in the islands of Panama, there is no undertaker. There is no one to take your loved o…

Dance in the Rain

Earthquake Victims in Oaxaca, Mexico

I just got back to my home in Puerto Morelos from Oaxaca, MX (pronounced wa-ha-ka) Oh, my, what a wonderful trip!

Have you ever gone somewhere with the intention of helping people and come home feeling like you received more blessings than you gave? Well that is just how I feel. The people of Oaxaca are gentle, kind, warm, full of grace and hospitality, thankful for every little thing, resourceful, and self-less. They took me and the team into their homes everywhere we went. They fed us.

They gave us their beds. They hugged us and thanked us, not just for the material things we brought, but for caring enough to come, and they cried when we left.

I often sit down to tell you all about my adventures and end up just talking about the amazing connections with wonderful people along the way. There WERE adventures on this trip. The bridge was out and we had to drive through a river.

We drove for twelve hours through winding, dangerous mountain roads.


We walked the dusty streets of earthqua…

I am Going to Oaxaca to Help in the Aftermath of an 8.1 Earthquake.

I am going. So many people have done so much already. So much more needs to be done. Some towns have not been reached yet and they are asking for help. So I am joining a team (mostly from Alaska) to go to a couple villages in Oaxaca, MX and help distribute food, water, clothing, and medical supplies...and do whatever else I can.

Oaxaca, one of Mexico's poorest regions, was hard hit by the 8.1 earthquake a few weeks ago and then hit again by another quake just a week after that. Many homes are completely destroyed and people are sleeping in the streets.

I have a friend named Maria who has an orphanage in Oaxaca. She was visiting family in Alaska and trying to get back to Mexico when the second earthquake hit. She had to reschedule her flight and ask friends in MX to close the orphanage building until they could properly assess the damage and make repairs.

Maria will be back in Mexico soon to see what can be done for her own ministry to the children and to lead an emergency team in…

An Authentic Mayan Cooking Lesson

Maria is the mother-in-law of the guy who gave us the local tour of Leona Vicario on his taxi-cycle. (A taxi-cycle is a motor cycle with its front end replaced by a side-by-side, 2-seater bicycle)
His name was Oscar. Our tour guide that is. He ended the tour with a quick stop at his mother-in-law's house and, it may have been the end of the tour, but it was the beginning of something wonderful. 
We took a few photos of Maria and, a week later, we brought her the best one, printed and enlarged so she could display it. She was thrilled. 
While we were there, handing out our photo gift, we saw a HUGE jack fruit hanging in Maria's tree. So, we asked about it. Maria said it would be ready in another week and, if we liked, we could come back (again) and eat some of it.
We thanked her and arranged to come back the following Tuesday. 
Right before we left, I remembered I had purchased a bag of powdery cafe-colored spice, but I didn't know what to do with it. I figured Maria would…

Happiness in a bowl of Mole'

We sat down at the table in the tiny garden restaurant. I'd been there once and eaten the best mole' of my life, mole' so yummy I wanted to take a bath in it. But then it's location had eluded us for weeks (the location of the restaurant--and the mole' too for that matter.) Just about the time we'd given up searching for it, it appeared.

We pulled in, elated, and ducked in under the grass roof where tables made from exotic hardwoods shared space with red and green leafed bushes, colorful bougainvillea, and empty wine bottles hung like those really cool, long African birds nests in the trees.

Flowered pottery bowls lined the bar--each filled with something wonderful to stuff in a taco--and the smell of hand made tortillas and wood smoke drifted in from the traditional grill to the left of the bar.
A young man in his twenties lifted the covers of each pot and explained to us the different dishes while his father, his long grey pony tail seeming a bit out of plac…

Eat the Cookie

Things change.

I have been focused on the poor for years now. I LOVE the little huts with the flowers dripping over them and the children playing in the street.



But it seems it is time for me to learn a new lesson, or have a different experience.

It doesn't mean I will walk away from my heart which is with the beautiful poor. But it seems I am being offered an opportunity to enjoy the finer things in life.



To meet the well educated, the refined. To listen to lovely music and walk in beautiful gardens. To be pampered with massages and savor rich foods.



It is not something I asked for. But it keeps coming to me.

I talked with a friend about how we are so trained to avoid the opulent pleasures of sweets and eat the carrot sticks and celery on a tray of offered munchies.

But sometimes you just have to eat the cookie.



not sure why it is being offered, but enjoying the cookie

laura

for more go to www.thehappifyproject.com

Making Connections in Mexico

I spent some time in the little village of Leona Vicario, about an hour inland from Puerto Morelos on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Quaint place.

I bought a tamale from an old woman.


and I bought fresh orange juice from a sweet old man.


I stopped in at the tortilla factory and bought a small stack of still hot tortillas, right off the press.


I watched a lady cut up chicken for her customers. She had a lovely smile.


And I spent some time talking to two guys who worked at the fruit and veggie stand. The older man let me touch his Rosary and the younger practiced his English with me.


I just love connections.

Doing a happy dance,
laura

www.povertyprojectinternational.com

Remember Chichen Itza

A BIG part of the culture in the Yucatan Peninsula is Maya. The people who live there today are direct descendants of what you may think of as the Lost Mayan Empire. You hear about Mayan ruins and pyramids, but you may not realize that the Maya people still live among the jungles and farmlands of the Yucatan even as I write this.

Most of them still incorporate traditional clothing, food, building techniques, art, language (YES! You can learn the speak Maya!) and religion into their daily lives.

In January, when my daughter and I went to Mexico, we visited the state of Yucatan where the famed ruins of Chichen Itza are. Standing on the sacred grounds of the temple of Kukulkan is an experience that makes you pause, almost stop breathing, and try to take in the energy of the place and imagine what it was like to be there hundreds of years ago when life in the city was in full swing.




But one of the most humbling things about the site, is to stop and take time to connect with the local peo…

The Secrets of Happiness and How to Happify Your Life with Happy Food

Tell me please: What are SECRETS OF HAPPINESS?
According to the Happy Planet Index, Costa Rica is the #1 Happiest Place on Earth! I love this quote from the study: 
People living in Costa Rica have higher well being than the residents of many rich nations including the USA and the UK, and live longer than people in the USA.
Panama has repeatedly been the NUMBER ONE SPOT to retire overseas according to International Living. Check out this quote: 
International Living’sAnnual Global Retirement Index is hitting the presses. And in the top spot: Panama.I should say: Panama again. Because this tiny powerhouse has topped this index more times than any other country.

And this year, International Living is going over the top promoting Mexico as the up and coming best place to retire saying:
The U.S.’s southern neighbor consistently makes International Living’s list of the 5 top countries to live in. Mexico boasts a great quality of life, natural beauty, modern infrastructure, and safety.

I lived and…

Surprising Discoveries About Why Poor People Are Happy

My time spent living with the poor and the indigenous people of Mexico and Central America has turned up some interesting correlations. You understand that your life is full of stress in the Western world and I am sure you have been exposed to the idea that people who live simpler lives with less things seem to be happier. But do you know WHY?

Is it just a mental thing? Is it because they don't know what they are missing?

I believe it is much more than that.

I lived in an impoverished community in Panama. Many of the home were square wooden boxes that were partially open to the outside. There was no plumbing, no running water or electricity. There were no beds nor any furniture. Families slept on the ground and cooked over an open fire outside. They had no refrigeration (and neither did I for nine months). They collected rain water in buckets which they used for drinking, cooking and bathing. They often went without shoes. They ate very little meat and instead a lot of things the…

Central American Intuition and Good Times

There is a park in the middle of town on the island of Colon in Bocas Del Toro, Panama. Streets run around all four sides of it. Fantastically huge trees grow in the park and the peeling-painted benches offer seating to travelers and locals alike. If you walk down the street on the west side of the park and you see Good Times walking down the street on the east side of the park, you better hurry up and decide if you want to buy one of his free newspapers.

Yes, buy one. Good Times is my nick name for Sergio because he is always trying to sell me a copy of the little free newspaper called The Good Times. I get it. He needs to eat and he doesn't want to beg. I buy his newspaper occasionally and sometimes I just buy him lunch. But this is not about his financial situation. It's about his intuition.

If you walk down the west street and Good Times is walking in the opposite direction down the east street and you just catch a glimpse of him through those great trees, the ones that r…

Manifest Love

Please, Mama, tell me about love? Love is when we see the hurt, the pain, the suffering. We do not deny it. We feel it. We let it run through us and in it we see beauty. We see comfort, we see compassion, we see appreciation. We rise above the pain and we see the beauty in the world because without the contrast of the dark, the light is never so beautiful. We lift our hands and our hearts and we dance in the rain. We celebrate our breath and the sun and the heat and the coolness. We smile at a homeless man and he smiles back at us. We play in the dirt with a child who has only an empty soda can for a toy and we laugh as he shows us how the game goes. We get up in the middle of the night when we cant sleep and we look at the vastness of the stars and we know somewhere deep inside us that all of this human experience is designed to teach us to love. It is designed to show us the contrast, the depth of despair and the height of joy and the sameness of our human-ness no matter our langua…

Death and Hope in Golondrina: A Displaced Family in Bocas Del Toro, Panama

Maria and her baby brother used to live next door along with the rest of the seven people in their family. They had a little house with running water and electricity, a privilege many do not have in this community. But several days ago all seven of them were asked to leave their home because they could not pay the rent.

They stood outside my house, hearts broken, a few simple things in bags, and said they planned to live in the parking lot at the bank. There was a policeman there and a wide over hang on the building, so it was a good place to sleep.


This is the house out behind my house in rural Panama. Both homes belong to a lovely older woman named Shirley. She is tall and dark with high cheekbones. She wears her silver hair in a bun and always dresses in skirts and she has the mostly lovely Jamaican yah-mon English. Shirley is a woman acquainted with sadness. She lost her soul-mate, the husband of her youth, when she was in her twenties and became a widow. She lost two more husban…

A Deaf Who Can't Speak Gets a Life Changing Opportunity!

This is Pato. He is deaf and cannot speak. When we first met him, he stood in the background and didn't really connect with people. He spoke some sign language, and read lips, but he didn't interact with many people. I am sure growing up in a poor community did not make many resources available to him.  
So we started waving and then buying him M&Ms and acting funny and making him laugh. Soon he was coming over to the house and cutting the yard and fixing the fence. We paid him, which I am sure was a great boost to his self esteem. But the most important part was, he was learning to relax and interact with people. 
Well, last week we found Pato a job! There is a little shop around the corner where they build beautiful handmade furniture from local hardwoods. I had them make me a bed and two dressers and they did a beautiful job for a price that made me really happy. 
We walk by the place every day on the way to the store, and after being so happy with our furniture, we al…

Travel to Mexico's Yucatan Penninsula

Soon I will be setting foot in the Land of the Maya, in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Its a land filled with ancient ruins, extensive cave systems, remote jungles, endangered reefs,  and one of the world most mysterious histories. 
Thanks to your generous charity and many wonderful donations, I will be handing out gifts to poor children and families who are dealing with poverty while I am there. 
As they say is Maya, JUMBO TIK!  (thank you!)
While I am there I plan to spend time with indigenous people and learn some of the Maya language. I cant wait to do some traveling across the Yucatan Peninsula, which is one of my favorite things to do. My daughter will be with me for this trip and we will definitely drink ice cold coconut water and munch on sliced mangoes tossed in chili powder, lime, and salt as we stop in little villages and check out local art and meet the people. 
YEY! I now have a GoPro and that means lots of videos. I promise I will video tape exploring the ruins... 

 an…

Indigenous People's Art in Puerto Vallerta, Mexico

I love the color. And then there is the time it takes to produce something so intricate and handmade. The art of the indigenous people in Mexico is so vibrant and rich.

I bought one of these purses and now I wear it proudly and everywhere I go I brag about its workmanship. I feel like I brought home a bit of the soul of Mexico with me.

The woman who made these lovely bags made these amazing blouses too.


All cotton and hand-stitched.

Just imagine holding one and feeling the threads and thinking about the endless hours of labor that went into it creation.

This art is a labor of love.

Can we love the people who labored?

Always looking around the bend,
laura


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Sacred Rocks and Being Real

Rocks from the sea, balanced on each other at sometimes inconceivable angles. We have seen them before, in remote places where travelers and seekers have left offerings to the coast or to the gods of wanderlust. 
And here we find totems, scattered along the shore. 

But there is a difference. Here the spirit is not the same.  While others I have seen hold a sacred quality, built under sacred circumstances, as amazing as these may look, they hold sadness and a feeling of desperation for me. 
You see, they were not built by pilgrims. They were built by a man and his wife who live here. Not because of any holy endeavor, but in a desperate bid to make a living. 

I stood and watched as this old Mexican cabellero demonstrated his ability to balance one stone on another. He did it with the pomp of an entertainer and somehow it lost all its magical charm.  He had been balancing rocks for twenty years he said. In truth, it wasn't amazing. Not at all.  He held his cigarette in his lips as he took…