Archive for category Amy Clark


Cramming my backpack for the last time on these soils, puts me in a reflective mood:

1)   Ripe clothing? Check! (With thanks to my daughters who shared their laundry tips with me: “If it can’t yet totally stand up on its own, and if you don’t see people risking their lives in the street to avoid having to pass you on the sidewalk, its probably good for at least one more wearing.”)

2)   Video cuts, photographs and shorthand notes? (Why do I always find myself apologizing for using words and images that many of you won’t understand?) Check!

3)   Spanish language primers? (For all the good they did me!) Check!

4)   Lucky talismans from friends around the World ?(Ainhoa, I’ll be darned if I can figure out which direction is lucky for the “heads” on the Basque Lauburu! That it comes from you, I’ll take as good luck, no matter which direction they are facing.) Check!

5)   Pumped up kicks? Check!IMG_0922

But wait! There’s something, here, tucked into the recesses of my pack! I draw it out reverently, with faint memory of having put it there. It’s that lofty title “Peacebuilder Fellow to Mexico (short term).” Hmmm. I touch it softly, exploring its contours, saying its name out loud to see if it sounds any different than it did when I put it there, lifetimes ago.  Some of the dust and glitter drop to the floor by my feet, but it feels the same as it rolls off my tongue: Still a little frightening—still extraordinarily unattainable. I tuck it back in deep as a kind of time capsule, wondering if one day I might be worthy of it.

Well then! Guess that’s it! I’ll sweep the floor, shut off the light, heft the pack and, with a final flourish, stride boldly across this last threshold . . .



 Hasta la vista, Mexico!


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DSCN0852As this particular quest nears its end for me, it is far too easy to slip backwards down a channel of despair and resignation—the ultimate toilet bowl swirl. (Is anyone else detecting a theme here?)

The struggles continue as they have since the Spanish conquistadores first landed in the 1500’s. The land theft and the hijacking of rights that provoked social revolution leaders like Emiliano Zapata in the late 1800’s to call for a return of the land and water expropriated from those with nothing left, repeat like a needle stuck in a single groove as the record spins ‘round. . . .and ‘round . . .and ‘round, with a dizzying fatalism. (Apologies to those of you who have no idea what that means.)DSCN0866

Today as I was saying my goodbyes to the people and places who have defined home for me these last several weeks, I wandered into a scene where a major thoroughfare was cordoned off by policemen and soldiers. A group of protestors filled the street, raising their voices and banners in front of the human rights office. I stealthed some photos and tried to get some of the protestors to talk to me about the issue du jour, but they only glanced up suspiciously, hurrying to scuttle away. (Have I mentioned that it is a bit difficult for me to blend in?)

It appeared that the protest had something to do with a demand for respect and a request for acknowledgement of right to property and political access. In the faces of the people there, I saw the features and intrinsic pride of an ancestry predating Zapata, whose ghost seemed to haunt the scene in palpable frustration.


Circling back to the beginning of this piece, I have to say that it would be easy enough to chalk this tragic story up to “Human Nature,” shrug my shoulders and walk away, expecting that “as it began, so shall it end.” But there is something about the resilience of these beautiful people, and the commitment of my fellow fellows spread across the World, and one kick-ass development professor, that won’t let me do that. In the words of Paolo Coelho in The Alchemist:

 “And, when you can’t go back, you have to worry only about the best way of moving forward.”






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What rolls downhill, and rhymes with . . . ?

Every picture tells a story . . . .a picture’s worth a thousand words . . . . (Relax!  This is not about to become a graphic for the title of this piece.)DSCN0637

When I shared with you the picture of the missing man, it was because it symbolized, for me, empty spaces occupied by gossamer hopes and spider webs of distant struggle—the echo of voices rarely heard above the rush of water, as it is pushed by screaming turbines up and over mountaintops and pounding out through rocky precipices hundreds of kilometers away.

For me, it was the perfect metaphor for the stories I have been told by and about those who are excluded from effective participation in political processes that have direct and  dire impacts on their access to “sufficient, safe, accessible and affordable water”— recently called out by the international community as a basic human right. Duh! [Sure, we can “survive” without money, clothes or internet—well, maybe NOT without internet– -but, without water? . . . anybody?)




While legislators, with undoubtedly noble intentions, pass laws to expedite the implementation of water projects designed to prop up failing economies and persist in issuing edicts that demand that those further down the food chain comply with unachievable standards, subsistence farmers till the soils as criminals, and resource-starved municipalities quietly pass their byproducts merrily merrily down the stream.


Though I have become almost immune to the waft of human waste, mixed with more than a hint of Smells-Subtly-Like-Springtime laundry detergent, I can’t imagine that it is healthy or sustainable for the community through which it passes. It makes me wonder at what point this effluent will back up to the top of the hill, toward the lofty towers of the politically affluent. Perhaps, with this eau de reality unfurling in their nostrils, they will be compelled to adopt more ingenious, practical and sustainable solutions to address these persistent human rights issues. I can’t help but think it true that we all really DO live downstream!





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I Met A Man Who Wasn’t There . . .

Tree Trunk Sculpture Viveros-Coyoacán

Tree Trunk Sculpture
Viveros-Coyoacán, D.F. Mexico




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Boston Harbour Where it began . . .

Boston Harbor –A Spot of Tea, Guv’na?

Today, America celebrates the adoption of its Declaration of Independence, marking 238 years of freedom from British rule.

On the 14th of July, Bastille Day, France will honor the battle which lead to the end of feudalism and the enactment of its Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

As I walk around Mexico City, I am surrounded by monuments built in memory of this country’s myriad battles for independence, and to honor those who have continuously fought for it.


Angel of Independence- Paseo de la Reforma

Like Phoenix’ burro in the marketplace, these testimonies to human struggle unceremoniously plowed into me today, forcing me to take a moment to reflect that almost every corner of our world seems to have been in a war for freedom from one form of tyranny or another. (One doesn’t need to tweet, twitter, chirp, or be linked-in to know that there are vicious battles for freedom  being fought, even as we sip and dip, here in our blog cafe.)

Minca, Colombia January, 2014

Minca, Colombia
January, 2014

Whether as instigator of these fights for freedom, or the tool used to quell them, the denial of access to resources required to meet even the most basic of human needs becomes a common battleground. Deprivation of basic needs is spotlighted, at times, but too often hidden behind layers of obfuscation, sometimes self-imposed. (I plead the Fifth!)

As I listen, learn and relate the tales surrounding water–the lifeblood of all living things–I wonder if there could be a day when the world’s citizens join arms around the pozo (well) to guard it from exploitation and usurpation by they who would be king(s).

Just try to imagine the size of THAT monument to independencia!


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HELPING HANDS THAT DON’T . . . or perhaps they do

(just not in the manner that I have so come to appreciate)

          Words and their meanings





through space

as I try to get my bearings in this land of mind-altering juxtaposition.

 It is the rare place, here, that I do not walk among armadas of men and their weaponry: on sidewalks, in train stations, crowding benches in drab colored rovers, caressing machine guns as they stand, walk and wait. The men with guns, it seems, never sleep.

On the opposite end of the gender spectrum, I have learned to attempt to blend into the pods of women clustered together in public places, so that they might go about their daily obligations without having to endure roving hands and suggestive glances. (In fact, Mujeres y Niños have designated spaces in trains and stations, evidenced by indelible signs, barricades, and guards that patrol the perimeters of these de-male-itarized zones.)


museo memoria y tolerancia

Museo Memoria y Tolerancia

Paralleling, yet becoming too soon acclimated to existences that I could not have fathomed two days ago, I am enthralled by the rich art and history of this enchanting place, as well as by the sincerity and generosity of her people. They are passionate in their beliefs and commitments and more than willing to take time to share a story, a jugo, and help the Google-map challenged.  The preparedness borne, apparently, of fear, fades into the backdrop of the daily tapestry of Life lived fully.

With a final juxtaposition for this day, I fortify myself for the fascinating work that lies ahead . . . . .

Oaxaca Fried Grasshoppers

Oaxaca style grasshoppers con café au lait, por favor













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We aren’t in Kansas any more, Toto! Beamed at less than warp speed from the safety of my rocking chair—courtesy of United Airlines and some major “we’ve got problems, Houston” weather–I find myself immersed in a vibrant city that never seems to sleep. Bienvenido a Mexico City!

Swathed in the mantle of uncertainty and fear donned with my backpack in Boulder, I scuttled into a hermit shell at 1:40 this morning, vowing to spend the next three weeks studying my Spanish for Niños in a hovel, hoping that people might drop in, wanting to share their stories with me, en ingles perfecto.


Summoning enough courage to venture forth a few hours later, I was amused and relieved to run into Phoenix’ friend, Serendipity. (That girl gets around!) Though the folks here haven’t exactly been throwing themselves at my feet to school me on “problemas del agua,” I found that a little small talk (I mean REALLY small talk) invariably lead to discussions about my interest in water and its confluence with “civilization.”

A little jugo de cactus . . . a dash of malodorous workout sweat, and the wheels are greased: my new acquaintances are more than willing to share their stories about water: Small talk reveals some BIG recurring structural themes: water quantity/sourcing, quality, allocation and the political and economic forces which play major roles in the ultimate stratification and deprivation.  The nasty word del dia:  “Privatization!”

But enough of this small talk! I am looking forward to giving you something other than the Cliff Notes version soon. For now, a note of gratitude to my fellow fellows, without whom today would have turned out to be much less productive and far less entertaining for one who has truly fallen off her rocker. Saludos, amigas!





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Fallow Fellow Fumblings

From the relative comfort of my rocking chair in Boulder, smut novels and bon bons nestling with Medusa thoughts writhing about colorful balls of inertia in the bottom of my knitting basket, it is easy for me to flip the remote to the Self Pity Channel: “I wish I were on the ground doing good!”


On Golden Pond (Kellie Maree Clark Photography)

On Golden Pond
(Kellie Maree Clark Photography)

I’m not battling taxi drivers, mosquitos and food poisoning. I am not bearing the haunted glances of parched children as flats of water bottles march by in perfect formation. I am not being immersed in the futility of promising initiatives that are smothered by corrupt politicians. I am not wending my way through imposing barriers while children are being rousted from their homes and neighborhoods on the pretext of crimes they did not commit.

I am luxuriating in hegemonic bliss as I await my opportunity to travel to another country to explore, learn about and tell the stories of others impacted by conflicts over one of the World’s arguably most precious resources: WATER! Yet I am gratified to learn that I am not totally divorced from the on-the-ground experiences of my fellow fellows. In fact, I have been repeatedly head butted by Phoenix’s friend, Serendipity, who found her way from Ethiopia to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Byers' Peak, Fraser River Valley, Colorado

Byers’ Peak, Fraser River Valley, Colorado

I have become a veritable witching rod for all things water related. People off the streets run up to engage in random conversations about water quality. Folks in coffee shops bury me in literature about the various nefarious wanderings of water development through American history. Hay farmers crop up to share water adjudication and allocation woes.   Human rights activists stop to commiserate about the loss of already limited arable reservation land to dam (damn?) projects.

All of this serendipitous water schooling (I swear, I have done and said nothing to invite this inadvertent education!) keeps pushing an uncomfortable thought to the forefront: Is my penchant for seeking out problems in other lands, a simple case of development myopia? I have been born, raised and educated in a cauldron of water issues, yet, up to this moment, have refused to see it. Am I the proverbial frog who has acclimated so steadily to this environment of conflict that she failed to note the transition from tepid to scalding?

Harrowing thoughts for a barren mind.

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From Peak to Peek


Though not within the purview of this particular study of water conflicts in Mexico, Long’s Peak rises in my backyard as a reminder of the juxtaposition of Nature’s majesty and the barren wasteland that lies at the end of her convoluted resource chain.

It is from this peak that the headwaters of the Colorado River flow, winding their way through Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California, before crossing the cartographer’s line into Mexico.

En route, the Colorado is diverted, reverted, pumped, dumped, silted, salted and dammed, until it sludges onto formerly productive agricultural lands south of the border: “The Colorado, a river whose importance is absurdly disproportionate to its size, has the worst problem with salt of any American river.” [Marc Reisner in Cadillac Desert at 460.]

Treaties and litigation appear to have had little long-term mitigating impact on a burgeoning resource allocation and preservation issue that pits power brokers against politicians, farmers against taxpayers, and peoples of states and countries against one another.

The views at either end of the Colorado River’s tortuous journey through time, furrows and canyons, could not be more diverse .   It will be interesting to see whether the conflicts that are carried downstream along this river and its tributaries bear any resemblance to those that we will encounter as we launch upon our own travels through time and space.

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Adventures in Humility

With so many humbling Life’s lessons tucked into my portfolio, one would think I would have mastered the art of humility by now.  As with the protagonists in The Years of Rice and Salt, however, it appears that I am destined to relive and relearn those lessons, until I have them perfected.  (In my assumption of even the potential for perfection, lies evidence of the distance I have yet to travel to achieve Master status.)

With each step taken, mindful of my mantra: “please let me be an instrument of peace,” I find that I am but a conduit for those who are the true instruments—at least when I’m not inadvertently damming the flow of their good works.  (One should not, I suppose, underestimate the peacebuilding potential of the unintended comic relief I seem to provide.  Bubbling in the wake that churns behind me, camaraderie borne of mirth often effervesces.)

As I tuck the lofty title “Peacebuilder Fellow to Mexico (short term)” in the recesses of my backpack, it is with some trepidation–could “short term” refer to my life expectancy?–much anticipation—I cannot wait to meet my fellow pasajeros on this life journey, and with little expectation— in expectation, I have found I am invariably wrong, for the road rarely leads where I expect it to.   To our humbling and fulfilling journeys, pasajeros!!



A road less traveled: La Tagua, Colombia, 1/14

A road less traveled: La Tagua, Colombia, 1/14

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