The View


April 15, 2010

The fellows now have just 2 short weeks left in-country. It seems unreal, because before I began my Global Citizen Year, my longest-ever vacation hadn’t even been that long. (It clocked in at 12 days.) Strange to think of my “closing time” as longer than any previous beginning, middle, AND end of a trip combined. It seems like now my eyes should be starting to look at things in the way I want to remember them–to paraphrase Vladmir Nabokov. But the truth is that until yesterday, everything was clouded by my desperate desire to be on a plane to San Francisco.

I was embarrassed to admit it even to myself, that I was simply ready to be home. Though I have lived here for 7 months, I also miss “my life.” I think I was embarrassed because I felt that I should be so in love with this place, so in love with the exotic and adventurous nature of what I’m doing here. I felt pretty bored and uninspired with myself. I was depending on my April 30th flight to carry me back into the arms of the 6 Senegalese fellows, to re-energize my spirit by listening to their stories and triumphs and successes. I’ve  come to think it’s fair to be ready to go home after 7 months, and I also realized that a lot of my anxiety was coming from the monotonous pattern my days had taken on after the vacations for Holy Week.

So yesterday, I broke the pattern and went on a publicity campaign with Yoly & Clara- just like I had done so often in November and December.

Woke up with the sun, scarfed a banana for breakfast, and piled on a bus headed for “Guate, Guate, Guate!!”–Guatemala City.3 buses and a quick jaunt in the back of a pickup truck later, we found ourselves in Camán, quite a large place, as we were to discover. With more than 6,000 residents in 4 “cantones” or sections, we split up in twos with a local authority to help lead us. Clara and I meandered up huge hills and across bridges that traversed bustling highways, taking in breathtaking views of the patchwork of fields–strawberry, string beens, cabbage, lettuce– and the double-peaked Acatenango volcano, dusted in snow (a first in the history of Guatemala, to which Yoly and Clara responded by saying “It looks just so precious! But it worries me very much…”) while beside it, angry Fuego volcano spouted plumes of ashy-gray smoke (indeed it merits the name “Fire”.)

Talking to people as they passed on the street, store owners, fruit vendors, affixing posters to telephone poles and bus stop shelters– I was reminded of the last campaign I went on with Clara. We had only one roll of tape between the two groups, so we wrapped some around a marker and set off. Then we realized we had no scissors, and so Clara, seeing a dead plant near the post with lethal looking thorns, broke one off and jabbed it in the center of the tape, successfully tearing it and creating a tool that worked for the rest of the day in a manner much more efficient than scissors. I can’t say why that stuck with me, but as we walked through small stands of pine trees smelling of wet earth, my cloud of count-down fever ebbed away enough for my eyes to see how much of this experience has impacted me in ways I don’t realize yet.

After several hours of walking, we retired to the house of a local midwife named Juana who was preparing a small meal for us. We asked to help, and she set us to work making tortillas. I belive I’ve already mentioned that I’m a terrible tortilla-maker. But to my surprise, my tortillas yesterday turned out uniformly round and flat. I’ve still got some practicing to do… but I was thrilled to have more mastery of that one special Guatemalan skill that still evaded me.

Back into the pickup truck, making a sort of fort over our heads with a piece of tarp as rain started to fall. Back into a bus as it turned into a downpour, the driver’s side wind shield wiper flopped uselessly from side to side without making contact with the glass. It reminded me of a bug that has lost a leg, but the leg still twitches ineffectually on the ground. I shrugged at the high-speed turns the driver was taking without the benefit of clear vision as his ayudante discussed the inopportune timing of the first big rain of the season. Guatemala has changed my risk-assessment algorithms.

I’m not thinking about San Francisco today. I’m singing along to the Guatemalan song playing on a computer across the room, I’m munching on green beans I bought yesterday from a woman sitting next to the field they were grown in. I’m good with two more weeks.