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Last year, I went on date to see the movie Kedi at The Music Box here in Chicago. Kedi, in Turkish, simply means "cat," and the film documents the cats in Istanbul who rule the streets and seem, all at once, to belong to everyone and no one. (You can watch the movie here.) The documentary hit a sweet spot for me because, well, CATS, but also because I had spent a month of my travels in Istanbul and around Turkey and remembered fondly all of the cats I saw everywhere while there. There were cats in the streets, cats in...

"Welcome to Africa," a man said as we piled off the boat from Rio Dulce and entered Livingston, a Guatemalan town known for it's Garifuna culture. But, you wouldn't really know it unless you were told. The town is comprised, mostly, of two touristy streets with a couple of empty restaurants offering overpriced seafood (though my tapado - a local coconut-based seafood soup - was amazingly delicious and contained a whole fish, a crab, several shrimp, and somethings in shells) and no real culture to take in at all. While watching a Mother's Day event (they seem to go very...

Roger Ebert, a famous American movie critic, recently passed away. I was sitting on my couch in Antigua when I read the news, and his final blog post, and I started to cry. When Mildred, one of the girls who worked at my student house, asked me "¿Qué pasa?" I had to explain, in broken Spanglish, who he was and that he had died. I don't usually get emotional when celebrities pass. But Roger Ebert was a truly talented person: someone who earned whatever fame he had. He was also the subject one of my very few celebrity encounters: in college...

I spent an afternoon in Guatemala exploring the Mayan ruins of Tikal. There were several options for getting there but I chose an afternoon sunset tour. The sunrise tour sounded interesting, seeing the ruins in a mist, hearing the jungle wake up. But personally I couldn't be bothered to wake up early for it. So a sunset seemed good enough for me. You may recognize the landscape of Tikal from a little-known independent film called Star Wars. I wouldn't though because I've only seen the movie once. ...

I had intended to write here about how, sometimes, I feel like an awful traveler. Like how I've been forking over extra money to take shuttles instead of chicken buses because I feel more comfortable and because it's just that much easier. Or like how I booked a tour (albeit an incredibly cheap tour that started where I was and finished where I wanted to be) to Lanquin and Semuc Champey instead of doing it all myself like I had originally planned. And then I got to Semuc Champey, and saw just how absolutely beautiful it was. And that didn't...

Chichicastenango is a large market a few hours outside of Antigua. It's held every Thursday and Sunday, and a slew of vendors take over the town, selling everything from tourist trinkets to tools to soap to live chickens. I managed to come away buying just one thing: a small blue weaving. I had wanted a big long one to match a table runner I bought in India. But I never found one I really liked. I'm rather particular. And I almost bought a giant wool blanket but didn't want to carry the extra weight. I don't buy a lot of souvenirs...

On my fifth day in San Pedro, when my back was still sore but feeling a bit better, I joined my friends Marlies and Jorien (a pair of Dutch girls I'd studied with in Antigua), and another Dutch boy and we explored a nearby lakeside town: San Marcos. I'm not sure I could have survived in San Marcos for more than an afternoon. It was the kind of place where you could fill up on vegetables, spend the morning doing yoga and the afternoon getting your inner chakra balanced while sipping an herbal concoction meant to cleanse your aura. That...

I arrived in San Pedro La Laguna on the suggestion of just about everyone I'd met. It was meant to be a lovely place. It was meant to be fun, relaxing. It seemed like the perfect distraction after studying Spanish for a month in Antigua. And it was pretty. For about 5 minutes. Until I realized that there isn't really any place to go to enjoy the beauty of the lake. And until I realized that everyone there is either a hippy or just wants to snort coke and take acid. Or both. I mean, really, I don't know what...