Monday, September 27, 2010

Browsing our Guatemala album

Sometimes, the most important times of your life remain so crisp, and detailed and immediate in your mind; that is can be a real shock to realize that it has been years since you were there, that you have grown and moved on, no matter how the scents and flavors still fill your senses.In June, of 2002 my mother, my brother and my two sons and I travelled to Guatemala. It was a quick, vivid trip filled with delicious tropical fruits, laughing children, hot, sweaty work and rowdy games of blind man's bluff. It feels like it just happened. But in eight years my children have become men, my Mother has stopped traveling, and I have published a novel, "Duffy Barkley is not a Dog." The first book hints at my fascination with this area of Central America but now I am beginning to write a sequel and the Guatemalan character becomes more important.

And so I have been pulling out the dusty photo album and reminding myself of the smaller details. The fresh roasting coffee smell, the vivid fuschia flesh of dragonfruit the mystery of a watery road through bullrushes. I have looked at the intricate and original hand-woven clan clothing that the Mayan wore, and remembered the recent and bloody battles between the Spanish and Mayan in the very peaceful town where we played with laughing children.
I remembered how my sons were giants compared to children older, but less well nourished than they were, and yet how even with no words in common, they shared the rules and structure of each other's games. "Duck, Duck, Goose" "cat and Mouse" soccer, basketball.

And after we learned a few terms, the older people treated my children with respect and interest. Their delight in finding an American child who would stop, and try to say, "hello" in Tsuitajil was obvious and endearing.

My brother's handicap has never been a barrier. People respond to his smile quickly, and in this foreign language culture, most of our communication was done just as his always is. With smiles.

It felt at times like we were there forever, and at times like a part of us has never left.

We are more consumer oriented when we are at home. We all want the newer, therefor better products. But we were closer to each other without those extra things entertaining us. Every day, we still reach out and connect, even now that my boys are in high school, but in a large part, it started in a place where we only had ourselves and an old plastic ball and a lot of strangers staring to see what we would do next.

When we left, we took some of the realization that we have too much, with us. It hasn't made us drop the internet connection, or give away all our extras, but it has helped us remember not to allow the piles of stuff to become a barrier, and to see the people, and this beautiful world, as more important.

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