Where the children play

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We don’t know of habits, but we do know of rhythm. All we see is beauty, all we seek is joy. Food for our senses. Our minds. To create. To be inspired. To share. And to whisper. Or to scream. To tell each other fairy tales. To live them. We dance with bears in the forest. Fight with invisible ninja-raccoons in the nights. Have tea parties with owls, squirrels and birds on the branches of an old tree. We sing quotes from songs and make them parts of our conversations. We find treasures in bins instead of trash.

We collect paint buckets from the streets and use them as wind shelters for our goodies on rooftops. Or as coolers for our beer cans. We build drums from empty juice bottles and pretend that sandwich ice cream boxes made of plastic are wine glasses. We are analog people in a digital world. We bass-hum. And sometimes we try to whistle at the same time. We copy the sounds of howling wolves and crying birds. We try to figure out what a bears kiss would feel like. Or that of a fish. Or of a turtle. We raccoon-sniff behind each others ears. And dance with each others shadows on the beach.

We create constantly changing and yet steady rhythms. We group-snuggle in bunk beds. We praise avocado and papaya. We squeeze as many of us as possible into our hula hoops. We tear flowers from cigarette filters that we pick from the streets. We have chewing-gum chew parties to produce glue. We see mandalas in the shadow of a tree. We make drawings in the sand. Use our fingers to write our names in the sky. And let the wind slowly erase them. We sing out aloud. We peel dry wood to find out what’s hidden underneath the crunchy crust. We spread spices over our meals as if they were fairy dust.

Our excitement for the little, the small, the tiny is contagious. Our enthusiasm mutual. We teach each other how to separate metal can tops from their bodies with our teeth. And make ashtrays shaped like flowers from them. We integrate chewing-gums that are stuck to the ceiling of our bunk beds into our bed design. We splash cups filled with water into each others faces out of a somewhat sneaky mood. We give our foreheads to one and another to think better. We dig and drag our feet through the sand to escape the burning heat on its surface. We walk down the stairs like Cinderella, just without shoes.

We turn around in circles only to feel dizzy in our heads for a while. We have sponge gatherings. We use scarfs as shelters to hide from the wind. We make up words like overwhelmption out of pure happiness. We create earrings from broken zipper pieces. We collect points for every single piece of rubbish that we find. And we win the game when we dunk them into the trash bin from afar. We make sand-spitting monsters from squashed green lime fruits.

We flatten our food and eat it in circles. We fruit-fish our pineapple from the same bowl with our lips. We create a piece of artwork from how we stir paint. We balance on the side of the pavement. Or the yellow line in the middle of the street. We witness how clouds swallow mountains by covering them with their shadows. And how the sun helps them escape darkness and brings them back into the light. We go on missions. Have quests and challenges. We embrace each other when we hug. Our happily ever after exists in each and every moment. With children’s eyes we see, with their hearts we feel, with their minds we discover. That’s what we do. This is where the children play. This is where we’re swept away. With the planet as our playground.

Sending you love from Casa Oro Eco Hostel, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

{slightly edited repost from www.nomadjazzing.wordpress.com}

Maestro de arcilla

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When you take a sip from your cortadito or cappuccino at Casa Oro, or cut into your French Toast or kabobs, it’s hard not to notice the ceramic sets in which everything is served.

Casa Oro strives to be a ‘green’ business. Signs throughout the San Juan del Sur hostel and its sister properties, Casa Andalucía, Nuestra Casa and Hotel Pacifico encourage guests to reduce, recycle and reuse. As such, there are no disposable glasses, cutlery or dinnerware. Rather a large selection of eco-friendly handmade ceramic pieces that highlight Nicaragua’s ancestral and environmental roots.

Each time you order a hot drink or meal from the Casa Oro café, your napkin holder, bowl, plate, saucer or cup will reflect a different treasure from Meso-America. Despite the diversity in the designs, colors and shapes of the dinnerware, all was created for the most part by one man.

Elvin Cano is from another San Juan. San Juan de Oriente. It takes a few buses to get from San Juan de Oriente to San Juan del Sur. With wait times and stops all along the way, it can easily take the better portion of a day to get from one San Juan to the next. That is just one of the reasons why Elvin is not in San Juan del Sur 365 days a year.

Elvin and his family follow their own calendar to make and sell large quantities of hand-thrown functional yet beautiful ceramic pieces of art. Each one follows the customs passed down from Elvin’s grandfather down the line to himself and his brothers, and now the 20-something generation set of great-grandsons. Elvin heads to San Juan del Sur during the higher tourist seasons. His nephew, Jonathan, may be selling at the San Juan malecón, or in the colonial city of Granada. Elvin, Jonathan and one other relative are the only ceramic vendors that Casa Oro welcomes inside the hostel to show off their creations. There’s a reason for that.

“The largest order I’ve ever had was from Muffa [Casa Oro’s owner]. That makes me very happy”, Elvin says. “Muffa likes everything natural. Everything we make is natural. No chemicals.”

Elvin met Muffa several years ago. Muffa appreciated his work.  “I want quality”, Muffa told Elvin, before he was even ready to place an order. He kept telling Elvin, “muy pronto, muy pronto” about his desire for a major purchase. Then the order came in. It was such a large quantity that Muffa gave Elvin two months to complete it. Elvin proudly says that he delivered before the deadline, thanks to the help of his brother.

The order included dinner and salad plates, coffee cups, demitasse cups, creamer and sugar bowls, salsa servers, shot glasses and soup bowls. That was just for the kitchen. Muffa also ordered about 60 sconces for the bedrooms, dorms and hallways. The wall-decor lampshades have cut-outs in the form of waves, flowers, circles and geometric lines. Muffa liked all Elvin’s designs which represent nature in Nicaragua: hummingbird, turtles, fish and butterflies. There’s also Pre-colombian and geometric designs.

As far as the hues, they are all made out of natural colors: blue, green, turquoise, black (from manganese), yellow, red and orange. The colored clay is brought from different parts of the country. “We go to el Sauce de Leon volcano to find the orange earth”, Elvin says as an example of the natural colors they use on their ceramic pieces before they are glazed. The blue clay comes from the coast.

“Everything we use comes from the earth”, Elvin explains. The clay is from adobe earth. They let it sit with water for a few days. Then, they mix the clay (arcilla) with sand and form the plates, drink ware, candle holders or cylinders. They even use old bicycle spokes to etch designs, and act as insets.

To save energy, Elvin and family only bake the pottery a few weeks each year. Their wood-fired kiln is about two meters high, and it can accommodate 120 ceramic pieces at a time. They load the kiln one day, and take them out to cool the next.

“They are all very much perfectly spun, and the glazing is a special glaze that protects you from any toxic particles that may be in the clay”, notes Casa Oro guest Richard about Elvin’s work. Richard learned to throw pottery on the wheel at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Later, he had his own wheel in his studio near Austin, Texas, so he can recognize finely crafted clay objects. “You can feel the difference in the glaze.”

Beyond the large quantity of ceramic ware that Muffa bought for Casa Oro, Elvin made a major sale to one of the tobacco company owners in Estelí. While not as large as Muffa’s collection, the one close to the Honduran border included 60 large plates, 40 small ones, a coffee set and drink ware.

“I feel very happy and am grateful to him”, Elvin says about Muffa’s trust in and appreciation for his work.

Elvin can ship his pottery outside of Nicaragua for a nominal shipping and packing surcharge. People that are interested in finding Elvin and samples of his work can ask the Casa Oro front desk staff. Or better yet, order your specialty coffees to accompany your breakfast, lunch, happy hour or dinner platters to see the charm in his ceramics.  

A Kaleidoscopic View of San Juan

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What is the common factor that attracts us all to this same atmosphere? The freedom? The diversity? The perspectives? Or is it the ability to not have to think about anything at all? Looking at waves on the bay, hearing the clash of water breaking continuously throughout the day… These things seem to come easily to San Juan del Sur, which in 2017 is still coming together in a jumbled yet creative scene. Maybe it’s those things specific to nature and this part of town that somehow mirror our own. Whether it is similar to the beats of our hearts in the clash of the waves or the uncertainty that somehow reflects our nature and constant change of our thoughts. It’s certainly something, maybe different to each of us.

Casa Oro rooftop. – photo credits: nomadjazzing

I could be here for the usual two or three days and go back to my so-called regular life in Managua, but staying here a couple of months has truly brought the change of perspective I was aiming to find. It’s as if every single day I can attempt to push forward all the changes I’ve wished to see in this country, or similarly in the same way I want to see them in myself. Very Gandhi-like, but it’s the only way I can put it.

San Juan del Sur Bay – photo credits: nomadjazzing

It’s for this reason I do not want to leave, because I don’t want it to stop for it has been here in San Juan del Sur – that as a place is also developing just as my own dreams are taking their stronghold in becoming real – and that has made things clearer on what kind of path I want to stay on.

Casa Andalucia – photo credits: nomadjazzing

At times it’s hard to mean this phrase wholeheartedly for some of us, but: I’m loving life as it is! Working in Casa Oro’s reception for transportation and surf shop was challenging, but a great icebreaker for getting to know this town and its local feel. Now as a part of a group of managers from other properties (Casa Andalucia & Nuestra Casa), I’ve realised that what you do with your time is essential in realising who you are. Spending 12-hour shifts in reception made my goal of integrating myself within the community seamlessly. Although some did not think of me as a local, I would prove them wrong by backfiring with the same rapid Spanish they had; breaking their own norms of what a local is like or is supposed to look like.

photo credits: nomadjazzing

In my opinion and as a fact really, locals and the Nicaraguan working class themselves are the ones who truly know the town of San Juan del Sur; where to eat for fewer than 100 córdobas, which are the best known or hidden beaches; even alternative options to grab a drink, as opposed to the few known spots you grow up hearing in Managua. Hanging out with tourists and ex-pats makes for a great perspective, for you realise the common factors that tie us to this point in time. It may be the Spanish or simply being from the same country, but being with locals has allowed me to see a little of myself in everyone I’ve met, putting into perspective that it’s not only the area that makes this place so great, but the people who spin its wheel play a bigger part in it as well. I realised I am part of that responsability now, and no one can take that away from me.

Action speaks louder than words

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Since there is still a lot of cleaning and work to do in many regions, we kindly invite you to drop off donations at Casa Oro Eco Hostel anytime: water, food (such as bags of rice and beans), clothing, household items (bed linen and sheets) or monetary donations. Also: if you are interested to volunteer and help out on site, please just make yourself known at the front desk. Helping hands are more than welcome.

Together we can make recovery happen. Step by step.

 

Handing out basic goods in Comunidad de Collado.
Comunidad de Tortuga receiving aid
Cleaning up La Flor
Group of young locals and tourists who helped provide supplies

Spirits are high. Let’s keep it that way!

People of San Juan del Sur: Kristen Claeys

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“I began my yoga teaching journey just under a year ago while living in London, England, then moved away from my home in Austin, Texas, to follow my partner at the time, across the pond. Once we arrived, I found the person I thought I knew a stranger to me. While figuring out my reason for making this bold move, I decided to attend YogaLondon to try to bring peace into my life, deepen my practice – and maybe find my purpose. Little did I know how these first 200 hours of teacher training would change me forever. After realising my life at home was dramatically different than what I felt in my heart, I decided to enroll in a 300 hour yoga teacher training that would take me as far away from London as I could think of: Bali, Indonesia.

Before my travels to Southeast Asia, my grandfather suddenly passed away and I had to return to Texas for his funeral and take care of my grandmother. There my path was becoming clearer. I knew I needed to return to London, move out of my flat and follow my dreams of traveling around the world. So after making a circle around the globe, I returned to the U.S. to find my belongings, shipped all the way from London. Not knowing where my travels would take me next, I knew 5 years ago I had promised myself to travel to Nicaragua and decided I needed to make that a reality.

I arrived to Playa Gigante at the end of April to start a yoga teaching job, I believed was the dream I’d been waiting for. While being at the hotel, I quickly realised the owner and I had completely opposite ideas of what my purpose was while volunteering there; staying true to my heart – and what I’ve envisioned my experience to be – I decided to take a leap staying. Then I followed a couple I had met in Playa Gigante to San Juan del Sur and hoped to find a teaching opportunity quickly.

I fell in love with SJdS instantly. Its vibrancy, the beautiful colours, the mountain setting, its amazing sunsets. I imagined myself teaching yoga in Nicaragua and within one day my inbox had two teaching offerings. One in Granada, the other in SJdS. I chose to stay in San Juan to share my practice at Casa Oro after hearing of the wonderful things the owners visualise this place to be. I’ve been here for many weeks and we’ve been able to fill the yoga classes at Casa Oro with travellers and people from the community. Casa Oro offers classes every day: at 8 a.m. on the first floor and 5 p.m. on the Malecón by the beach, watching the sunset throughout class.

Classes are designed for everyone, no matter where they are in their practice. Our goal is to include the local community. Slowly but gradually this is being accomplished. Casa Oro’s practice of Karma Yoga, selfless actions, of providing free yoga to everyone in the community shows how committed the Circulo Initiative is to giving back to the entire community in SJdS.

I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of something so beautiful!”

PEOPLE OF SAN JUAN: CEIDY GRANADOS

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As an ongoing effort to celebrate the many people that make San Juan del Sur such a vibrant and thriving community, we sat down with our in-house Spanish teacher, Ceidy Granados, to discover more about her life, work and inspiration.

 

CEIDY GIVING THE GIFT OF LANGUAGE AT CASA ORO.

“My name is Ceidy Granados. I’m a Spanish teacher in San Juan del Sur. I’ve lived here my whole life. I love the Nicaraguan beaches, the mountains and the tranquility. My favorite activity here in my hometown is the canopy tour. And my favorite spot in the country is the Corn Islands.

I choose to be a Spanish teacher, because I like to teach and meet people to learn about their cultures. Also: I needed a job. I think it’s difficult for a person who comes from another country to communicate without knowing the language, so I’m happy I can help them learn Spanish. I’ve been teaching in SJdS for 13 years with students of all ages, including children. I don’t only teach in a school, I give private lessons, too.

Three of my current students stay at Casa Oro. And I come to the hostel for their  lessons throughout the week.  I like teaching private classes, because I get to leave school routine. We can go to the park and walk around the city. Some advice I give my students is to make friends with locals to improve their learning. I’d describe my teaching as dynamic and patient. The class is structured around every students level.

I want to teach for the rest of my life, because I love what I do. My dream was to study International Relations, but because of the economic situation I will not be able to go to college. I realized I was able to interact with people from all over the world without having studied International Relations by becoming a teacher.

My mom has inspired me most in my life, because even though my dad left us when I was a small child, she was always able to provide for us, despite the difficult times. I’m passionate about being with my family – and visiting church. My greatest strength is my love for others. My biggest weakness is sentimentality.

I wish to have a business of my own in the future. With the help of God…”

Ceidy offers both private and group Spanish instruction for students of all levels in the comfort of Casa Oro Eco Hostel, Casa Andalucia and Nuestra Casa Boutique Bed & Breakfasts. For more information regarding classes and scheduling, please contact the Casa Oro front desk. 

Meet the Travelers: Gillian and Alex

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Gillian and Alex enjoying their time at Casa Andalucia.

The inspiration behind everything that we are building has always been about the people. We’re not seeking to add ourselves to the already overcrowded bandwagon of tourism for the pure sake of profit, but we are seeking to cultivate a community of people who share our ideals of living of a life that is simple, holistic, sustainable and fulfilling.

We are full of so much gratitude for the people that have come to experience the beauty and chill vibe of San Juan Del Sur and that they’ve decided to invest in us by making our bed and breakfast establishments apart of that experience. Most recently, two beautiful souls drifted into Casa Andalucia and it was such an honor to have the opportunity to connect with them during their 2 week stay.

Gillian and Alex had such generous spirits and it was refreshing to meet a couple trekking around the world with the purpose of building a community not only for themselves, but to support the healing of this planet and uniting the people.

It’s a pleasure to be able to share this short interview with two of our favorite guests and offer an up close and personal look into why we have initiated this regeneration project and who we are doing it for.

 

Q: Give me a little information about your backgrounds. What are your current professions?

A: We wear a lot of hats! Alex and I both freelance- he works in finance and I write and teach yoga. We started a dating profile writing service last year, www.profilepimpers.com, where we help people find love online. We also run a couples travel blog and facebook group www.coupleslovetravel.com.

Fortunately, we can work from pretty much anywhere in the world so despite our busy lives, we still get lots of quality beach time in. 🙂

 

Q: What inspired your journey to Nicaragua?

A: We want to buy some land and build an eco-retreat and thought Nicaragua might be the place to do that. It wasn’t a fit for various reasons, so we are now in Costa Rica looking for the perfect spot.

 

Q: What does sustainable living mean to you?

A: To leave as little of a footprint as possible and, hopefully, leave wherever we have lived a better place. Our dream is to build a sustainable community that will provide our guests with both a respite from the modern world, as well as serve as a center for education and inspiration on ways they can rely less upon the grid.

 

Q: What do you take away from your experience in San Juan Del Sur?

A: Although San Juan itself can be a little hectic, the beaches and countryside surrounding the town are breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful. There is much to be explored in Nicaragua, but San Juan Del Sur has its own flare of authenticity and that’s what makes it stand out. There is so much potential in what this place can become—what it has become over the years –and it’s going to be amazing to see that progression the next time that we return.

 

Consciousness: Using Mindfulness to Cultivate World Change

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Akasha taking a moment to ground and connect in a garden located in Granada.

Recognize that your problems (and the problems of the world) aren’t random—they’re present because a larger purpose is trying to unfold through you.

{Awakening to Higher Consciousness, Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle}

Planet Earth and humanity is presently enduring an extraordinary shift. This shift is not just affecting us on an environmental level, but physically, mentally, and spiritually as well. All facets of our existence is being ripped at the seams and as we watch everything that was once familiar to us be broken down by the process of this deep transformation—one questions how we can remain fully present and use this transformation as a catalyst to make changes not only within us, but within world around us. Once we begin to ponder the bigger picture behind the many events that are currently being played out on the world stage and what role we are playing in its production, a universal signal is sent out that we are aware that there is something beyond the mundane surface taking place.

This is the first step along the path of consciousness.

Defined simply, consciousness is the state of being awake and mindful of one’s surroundings. On a deeper level, it’s being in tune with (and responsible for) our own vibration and the vibration of everything around us—be it the sky, the moon, the trees, or a simple rock. It is also being in tune with all that is taking place—the good, the bad, and the ugly. No longer can we stand by complacently and observe the world through rose colored lenses. Political unrest, racial injustice, a depleting water supply and dramatic climate fluctuations are just some the serious issues Mother Nature is using to get our attention, but how far will she have to go to wake us up to the reality that we can no longer continue to use her land indiscriminately?

So it brings us back to the question of: How can we use consciousness to cultivate world change? How can we be more connected with what is going on around us and use that energy to empower transformation? It starts with simply setting the intention. Set a daily intention of raising your consciousness through being aware of the present moment. We as humans alternate between being in stuck in past experiences or worrying ourselves into a future that doesn’t even exist yet. The one way we can nurture change in the world is by being grounded in the now. Yesterday has passed away and tomorrow is yet to come. In this moment, the present is all there is. Exercise fully being where you are.

Once you begin practicing the art of personal awareness—this awareness can then be expanded out into the environment. Make time at least once a week (more if possible) to connect with nature. Take off your shoes and ground your soles to the earth. Stand in the presence of Mother Nature and use your senses to feel the soil beneath your feet and listen to the sounds of the animal life. This simple act of standing in stillness not only deepens your connection with the planet you inhabit, but it deepens your connection within yourself—which is the foundation of consciousness.

Lastly—GET INVOLVED. Find a cause that resonates with you and make a commitment to be of service. Whether it’s volunteering a few hours a week at a community garden, serving food to the homeless at a shelter or going as far as traveling abroad and doing a work exchange on a permaculture farm—there is no better way of gaining a more in depth understanding about the problems of the world than immersing oneself in an experience that will bring one face to face with who and what is being affected.

As we press forward with the regeneration project, we are reminded daily about the importance of using mindfulness to create a space that fosters sustainability, holistic living and a unified community—while also surrendering to the unknown. Transformation can often be a chaotic process, but this chaos is necessary if one desires to shape a new world. Being dedicated to the vision while also remaining conscious of the here and now is something we strive towards—and we challenge you do the same as you move forward on your individual journeys.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Reflections of a Collaborator: The Blank Canvas

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Muffa, checking on one of the experimental gardens, with the compost toilet and shade structure in the background.

It’s a special time at Rancho Regeneracion.  So much has come to fruition – the compost, gardens, water well, compost toilet, shade structure, “ranchito”.  Yet there is still so much to be decided.

As someone who wants to have an impact, this is the sweet spot.  There is momentum, there are some basic resources, yet there is plenty of room for creativity.  There is a vision to get behind, but the details are unknown.

It isn’t easy to come into a system like this. It requires a lot of personal accountability, creativity and motivation.  When we arrived, we were toured around, shown what was going on, introduced to who was doing what.  But there was little instruction as to where exactly we would fit into this mix.  Instead, the project leaders empowered us to determine how best we contribute.

And as we’ve found our way – identifying our projects, getting into a rhythm work wise – the unknowns and need for adaptability remain.  The initial purpose of the yurt was to house collaborators on the farm. We came up with a 20-foot diameter design with capacity for 4 bunk beds.  But in our search for bamboo, we could only come up with enough for a 15-foot yurt – too small for a sleeping space.  And so we adapted.  We found a new need and opportunity – to build at one of the highest points on the property overlooking the ocean.  The lightness of the bamboo, and the moveability of a yurt, make it the perfect structure for that location right now.  And so we push forward.

rancho-sunset
Walking down from the future location of the yurt.

It’s a bit disheveled, but that’s exactly what it is supposed to be.  This flexibility is what makes Rancho Regeneracion so special.  It’s what makes it a group creation – one that is influenced by every hand and mind that comes to contribute.

For some people, this may sound crazy.  It may sound doomed for failure.  But for others, this is what the world needs.  These are the experiments worth testing, that may just result in something special that makes a lasting impact.  We don’t know, but we believe that it’s worth trying.

Reflections of a Collaborator: Coming to Nica

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Sam and Lynn, prior to getting down and dirty in Nicaragua.

My partner, Lynn, and I arrived in San Juan del Sur two weeks ago.  We first met Muffa through mutual friends at Burning Man in early September.  Shortly thereafter, we applied for collaborator positions at Casa Oro and Rancho Regeneracion.

This is our first time working while traveling.  We love to travel – to explore new places and cultures, to meet new people, to be unsure about what each day may hold.  And we also love surrounding ourselves with like-minded people and contributing to something bigger than ourselves.  So we posted a long shot on facebook….

“Friends of FB!  Lynn and I will be traveling abroad for ~5 weeks this Oct/Nov.  We’re excited to surf, and want to contribute our time and energy to the building of a space.  Does anyone know any cool folks building an eco-community/hostel/resort that fits this mold?  Let us know!”

Sure enough, within a few minutes, three friends put us in touch with Muffa.

During our first “official” conversation, I shared my excitement to build a yurt, and Lynn shared her excitement to create art.  It seemed a bit far fetched as neither of us had formal experience with either.  Muffa asked a few questions, and then without hesitation said, “yeah, let’s do it”.  There was a long pause.  We were convinced he must have misread our applications, or misunderstood our level of expertise.  Yet two weeks into being here, I’m in the midst of gathering bamboo poles for the 15-foot diameter yurt, and Lynn’s busy with her second floor mural.

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Sam working with the team on the yurt.
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Lynn busy with mural #2.

We’re just one example of many when it comes to the experiences of collaborators here.  We see it every day, and it’s affirmed by stories of those past and present – there is mutual trust that we are all curious and capable of learning.  Action is prioritized over excessive planning.  Resources are limited, so everyone is inspired to do the best they can with what they have.

As someone who is mostly guided by logic, I’ve always believed that a thorough to-do list was the key to progress.  But I’m learning here that good vibes and responsibility might go a longer way towards getting things done.