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An Email from Central America

Nathaniel Janowitz : May 1, 2013 12:33 am : Blog/News/Updates/Whatever

Recently I got around to writing a long update Email for some friends and family from my recent travels in Central America. I deleted a bit but for the most part its here, explaining my life, as I see it, through bleary eyes, smiles, memories and mojitos.

“Hello Everyone

I hope this Email finds you well wherever you are. If you come across the time I’d love to hear back from with an update about your life. Although considering this took me 3 months to write and it’s a mass Email I by no means expect or deserve a response. In fact, this ended up being way longer than I anticipated so I won’t even be offended if you don’t finish it. I’ve wanted to write sooner but time has a way of floating aimlessly when you’re lost in space.

This comes to you from Leon, Nicaragua. It’s a beautiful colonial city filled with pastel colored buildings, large churches and cobblestone streets. The past oozes off the walls here. Throughout Leon large murals are painted explaining the city and it’s role in shaping Nicaragua. Historically, Nicaragua was a divided Country. Two cities – Granada and Leon formed the primary power bases. Granada, the home of the right-wing conservatives. Leon, the center of left-wing intellectualism. After years of power shifting and political juggling between the two cities, about 150 years ago, the capital was moved to a neutral place: Managua. Over the years that followed Leon became the unofficial home of the Sandinistas who resisted the 40 year conservative, US backed, regime of the Samoza family. The Murals depicted throughout the city cover an amazingly wide range of things, from the peoples’ resistance, the life of Nicaraguan poet hero Ruben Dario, to the Iran-Contra affair.

About two weeks ago I found a small room in a boarding house here. I’m the only foreigner. It’s equipped with a bed, desk and a cold water shower over a concrete floor. It’s oh so bohemian chic and makes me feel really goddamn cool. I paid $80 to rent it for 3 weeks. I’ve managed to limit my destruction to a single Merlot mistake – but what’s a bed without wine stains? To enter the room I need to go through a gate where a small auburn dog inhabits the area. Her name is Mi Amor. When I leave my door open she comes in and hangs out with me. She’s a sweetheart but I’m pretty sure she has fleas.

Hmmm. Well where to start. I left Colorado on March 17th, actually 3 months to the day that I am writing this to you. I was meant to fly out on the 16th but after a few too many wobbly-pops with Brian and Jon the night before I managed to miss my flight. First time I’d ever pulled that one off. Probably not the last. As most of you know this isn’t my first extended trip. From 2007-2009 I spent 2 years working, traveling and volunteering. Long story short, 6 months in Europe and a year and a half in Asia, without returning to North America. There is something equally liberating and frightening leaving your life behind for who knows how long with only a one way ticket. Sitting on the plane this time I had the usual case of “holy fucks” and “what the hell am I doings”. I reflected a lot on the flight, especially on my last 3.5 years in the States, wondering if I was running from, or towards, something. I still wouldn’t say that I’ve figured that out yet. You usually don’t know until after you’ve either gotten there, or been caught up with.

That being said, the last 3 months have been great. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great people, see some amazing places, and explore. I already feel this email getting away from me so in the interest of having people actually finish it I’ll try to keep it brief (not my strong suit).

My stay in Mexico was short. Only 11 days or so. The reason for this is I am planning on returning to Mexico at the end of my travels. But more about that later. The highlight for me was definitely a beach town called Tulum. It’s down the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula from Cancun and Playa Del Carmen. Imagine the beauty of those two places without all the massive hotels, degradation of culture, and the parade of bros in tank tops – welcome to Tulum. Along with some friends I made in Playa Del Carmen, I rented a small hut near the ocean. It was on a rocky edge overlooking the ocean that bordered on a huge stretch of white sand. The hut wasn’t much, a few beds and a few more mosquitoes but at night, lying there, listening to the waves crash outside you’d be hard pressed to find a nicer slice of heaven. After a week in Mexico a friend of mine from Boulder, Aaron Pursell, with a friend of his from New York, Tracey, came to meet me.

The three of us made our way south to the islands off Belize where my parents soon to be retirement home is located. After a few days enjoying slow island life, Tracey returned to New York (her trip was only a week), and Aaron and I moved on to Guatemala. To say this country blew me away would be an understatement. Guatemala has the reputation of being quite dangerous, still reeling from a 20 year long state-run genocide primarily on the Mayan population in the country. Only recently has anyone actually begun to be held accountable. The leader during one of the worst periods, Efrain Rios Montt, is now standing trial in Guatemala but in fact, just today, it was announced that the current government asked to have the trial put on hold. This situation is a perfect example of the issues holding people accountable for these crimes here. The people now in power have roots that go back to the previous regimes. How do you provide justice when the ones meant to carry it through are the former proteges of the accused? Situations like this, as fucked up as politics are in North America, make me grateful that at least the people are capable of holding politicians to some standard of transparency.

Violence in Guatemala is wide and far reaching but like a lot of places with similar problems, for better or worse, the tourists rarely see it. My time there was serene with each day out-doing or matching the previous. One great experience I had was the opportunity to do a home-stay for a week in a town called San Pedro La Laguna at Lake Atitlan. The patriarch of the family I was staying with was a former professor of Mayan Philosophy who had lived through the genocide. He, and his family, were incredibly intelligent people and we discussed everything from history, to Shakespeare; Wikilinks to the economy. All in Spanish mind you. They were incredibly patient with my basic vocabulary and it was a great trial by fire way to cliff dive into my Spanish.

Here’s a couple more highlights from Guatemala;

Tikal – Huge Mayan Ruins in the jungle. If you can’t come see it yourself, rent Star Wars IV – A New Hope. The scene of the jungle with ancient buildings when the spaceship is flying into the rebel base before they blow up the death star was filmed at the top of one of the highest pyramids.

Semuc Champey – Crystal clear limestone pools in a valley over a river that flows through caves. Words don’t do it justice. Maybe Google might?

Lake Atitlan – A lake surrounded by volcanoes and alcohol.

Before I began my home-stay Aaron left and returned to the states leaving me alone for my last 3 weeks in Guatemala. After that I went back to Belize and visited my parents who were there on vacation. I think I stayed 9 days or so? Speaking of which, my parents are well.

From there it was onto Honduras. If Guatemala is meant to be dangerous, Honduras makes it seem like Boulder. Honduras constantly ranks number 1 on lists of the most violent countries in the World. It has the highest % of murders per 100 000. Well anyways, I loved it. Beautiful islands, mountain towns, lakeside jungle retreats. The locals here were even friendlier than Guatemala. I hung out with more locals than foreigners and parts of it really made me feel at home. I even spent 7 days in San Pedro Sula. Just as Honduras constantly ranks #1 in Most Violent Countries, San Pedro Sula has ranked #1 in Most Violent Cities since 2011 pushing Juarez, Mexico down the ladder. Actually, I quite liked San Pedro Sula. It was a bit inconvenient not being able to walk down the street at 9:30 am on a Tuesday but you take the good with the bad. So what was I doing there so long? I’ll save that story for the next email because if all goes according to plan, well, then my reason for going will be explainable.

So yeah, and here I am in Nicaragua and it’s been 3 months. I’ve left a lot out but I don’t really think I have it in me to try and explain every little detail. Nor do I think most people actually would want me too so I’ll start winding this Email down. Oh, Nicaragua by the way is the safest country in Central America. I felt I needed to put that in since apparently I feel the need to classify how dangerous each place I go is. I’ve continued to take Spanish lessons here and there and at this point I definitely am at a functioning level. I have conversations with people beyond just ordering food which is nice. I know how to flirt with women, incorrectly use prepositions, rent motorcycles, pretty much everything I need. Nicaragua has a lot of really beautiful places and I’m looking forward to checking them out over the next month. In about 9 days a friend of mine who some of you know, Eliot Alexander, is going to be meeting me and we’ll travel together for a bit. I’ll miss Leon but I’m ready to see something new. It has been nice here though. I found a bar named Manhattan which yes, sells Manhattans. I was even able to teach the staff to make them how I like them. Another litmus test of my Spanish.

The future is a bit murky for me right now. I’m considering moving to a Latin American super city. The leading candidates right now are Mexico City, Buenos Ares and Bogota. If you’ve been to any I’d love to hear your impressions. I’ll be heading back to Mexico soon to check out Mexico City and see if I like it. After that, maybe back to North America. I want to try and get back to Halifax by August 24th for two friends wedding. Anyone driving east around July or August? After that, if I can get back, it’ll probably be off to one of the cities I mentioned. But who knows, plans are nothing until they materialize.

Alright, well if you’re still reading thanks for sticking it out and if you feel like writing me back that’d be dandy. I’ll try to write again sooner next time so I don’t have as much to say. My wishes are with you all and I hope everything is everything you want it to be.

As always,


Belize December 2013 041-3

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My old website was hacked – welcome to the new one!

Nathaniel Janowitz : March 13, 2013 10:56 pm : Blog/News/Updates/Whatever

Yes, it’s true. My awesome website was hacked a few months back. I’ve included a partial screen shot of what was replaced on my website. Above all the Arabic was a picture of a white women with duct tape over her mouth. How creepy is this?


An old college friend of mine translated this for me. Apparently it says;

“Cause you to break through, and a single mask to my room and drink coffee as usual. 
And said I need to send you a message that I am fed up

Prophet Nsulv Mac (no idea what that is?) collectively, because I needed all of you to see the precursors

But the way he looks!! Nobody went with me Haha and whisper.

Overall the owner of the site “I am giving you” The best and strength,

Get rid of your site, on this server .. and go to a different server

Excuse me I’m going to continue!! Sorrow and sadness in my room hehehehe”

Seriously Mr. Azooz, nothing better to do then hack an anonymous strangers website and write gibberish? Enjoy your sorrow and sadness.

Everyone else – welcome to the new site!


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Writer, photographer, lover, hater.