I've made some great friends this year. One of those friends is Lea Chiara. We stayed in her hobbit house on the shores of Lake Atitlan during Semana Santa and took care of her dog. It was our first official house sitting gig. She was the preschool, art and music teacher at the LIFE School where she often played her guitar and sang with her class.
She wears more Guatemalan traje, or clothes, than any other foreigner I know, and this makes me want to wear more too. She does it in her own style, mixing a traje wrap with a plain t-shirt or a huipil, a traditional shirt, with pants.
Lea is a singer and songwriter from Northampton, Massachusetts. As a child, she went to an outdoor preschool and has been entranced in the creative world ever since. She grew up going to folk and indie shows at the Iron Horse Music Hall, where she also became a waitress for several years. She later studied visual art, voice and music theory at Skidmore College, from which she "escaped relatively unscathed and with a comparatively-painless-though-still-reasonably-crippling amount of debt."
She's also a traveler. Throughout her teens and twenties, Lea wandered through Italy, Spain, Mongolia and 40+ American States. I met her during her current travels through Central America. In every country, Lea and her guitar were singing, playing, teaching, and songwriting about "social justice, traveling, terribly immature men, and the importance of feeling free."
Lea likes the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and has lost at least 3 cell phones in the last 12 months.
She often escapes to Guatemala City for the weekend where she writes music and records with friends in a group called Lea Chiara and the Paper City Picture Show. Recently, she played at Circus Bar, a popular gringo restaurant in Panajachel, and I loved seeing her perform.
If you're interested in her music, it can be downloaded here for free, leachiara.bandcamp.com.
Good luck, Lea! I love listening to your music, and now that school is out, I miss seeing you every day.