Friday, August 15, 2008

Chapter 2: Guatemalan Immigration

i don't know where to begin. my impression of guatemala is my impression. that seems like a given, but if i tell you stories or simple observations you will be pulled into a belief that is only true for me. with that being said here is my guatemalan tale... i got off the plane and headed for customs (wait rewind) back at PDX the man checking me in for my flight asked in a stern manner why my flight was a one way. naively and excitedly i explained that i was to be a 3rd grade teacher. as if this guy gives a flying fuck. then he pumped fear in my veins...will guatemalan customs be aware of this? if you are unprepared with the correct information they could ship you right back to the united states. thanks airport friend for your friendly cautions and insight. i was going to shit myself as i stood in line with passport clenched in my hand. then it was my turn...stamp. stamp. bienviendos. the tension in my bowels settled as i grabbed my baggage and headed to meet my administrators. i had no fucking clue who these people were. all i could do was keep my eye out for a sign that read American School of Guatemala.

i didn't want to walk into this country or experience with any demands. so i prepared myself with a patient mentality for situations that may present themselves with my needs being unmet. maybe the school is highly disorganized- my housing blows, my work environment is chaotic and overwhelming. maybe i would be tortured with loneliness so excruciatingly bad that i would want pack my things up and return home immediately.

then the unexpected happened. i met my new life in guatemala. and it was the unimaginable. i met the other teachers and staff. i thought originally i was by my lonesome and everything would be in spanish, spanish, spanish. wrong. i am surrounded by many americans or people fluent in english. now while this is a slight pleasantry or affords comfortability it works against my goal of learning spanish.

to combat the gringo trap i have put a concerted effort in befriending the locals and spanish speakers. the beauty in this country is that it is so easy to be friendly. the people respond very easily. though i am native to a state that also presents a level of warmth, i have to say that guatemalans by far from all my travels are the most affectionate and endearing. everything is buenos dias, buenas tardes, and buenos noches (i haven't figured out accent marks on my key board yet and my spanish spelling for the time being will be off- i apologize). many of the workers have a common phrase- para servirle, which means i am at your service or here to serve you.

i love it here. the weather here is permanent spring. beautiful sunlight and a pleasing overall temperature. sometimes it has a tropical down pour and the sky explodes with thunder and lightening. the thunder is so loud that i have jumped or quivered with fright.

before i paint a very romantic and mystical picture for you i also have to level with you. it is difficult to live merrily and go about my life because i am the bourgeoisie and the elite. guatemala is a very poor country because it has a very unstable infrastructure that allows for few people to live within their means. this also puts my life in slight danger because when you are as poor as the people are here you get desperate, so desperate that you will target those with wealth and attempt to rob them blind. a gringo has very little security here. to a poor guatemalan a gringo, an american, light skinned, english speaker is dollars and money. they can't look at you any differently. they believe you have what they don't.

at this point you are probably unhappy and anxious in my decision to move here. to set your mind at ease remember that i camouflage. one glance at me and they think latina, in fact it is so unconscious that they don't even consider my presense. so i am not afraid and i understand that i have to adjust culturally and do things differently then i might do living back in oregon. for example i have become a stasher. i hide things in various obscure places so that if someone does have the opportunity to rob me they can't steal everything and i try to avoid carrying large sums of money on me and at night i try to go out with a group of people. see, i have my wits, and i do my best to do as the locals do.

no worries. mi vida, my life is a learning experience and a humbling one at that. as i learn spanish and customs i am in a constant upheaval of embarrassment. i mumble. i mispronounce words. i do the most awkward things possible in an attempt to connect and relate to the guatemalan culture.

every time i want to shrivel in shame or stay warm and snug in my little american comfort zone i remind myself why i came here. to explore and develop as a spiritual being, so i keep my heart glowing, hope for the best, and forgive in the worst.

i wanted to keep things short and simple, but how could i give you an honest international peek without any detail. in fact there is so much i left out. like my first attempt at being my own teacher that is soon approaching. i will just have to keep you posted...
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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Chapter 1: There is No place like home

Portland i miss your bridges, your bicyclists, your first thursdays, your last thursdays, your North, South, East, and West. i miss all the people that i made memories with the good and the bad. i miss all the people i will not get to know.
But Portland, Oregon if I may call you, we are better off this way. Going to new places and trying out new people.Your roads were too familiar and I was beginning to take you for granted. One day I shall return with a fresh perspective and terms of endearment. That you were more than a location. You were an infinite space within the confines of my heart.
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