November 01, 2005

Guatemala Otra Vez, Otra Vez

When I read this Washington Post story by Steve Hendrix, I could almost taste Guatemalan air again. So I wanted to write along with him...

I was out there two years, and words are not enough-- you need a pile of Technicolored bells and whistles and whatnots to show new people Guatemala.

I'd show the whole thing with a movie camera hung from a helicopter filming speck of white speeding down a ribbon of road wrapped around mountains in Guatemala; some music too, something loud, going faster, faster, and the camera swoops down shows us, the Peace Corps trainees: Lisa, Allison, Cliff, Emile, Dan, Shannon, Claire and me all huddled in a Pastoral Social agency pickup.

We are sunburnt and sooty faced, screaming to each other in English over the wind, hugging to stay warm when night drops a pile of stars on our heads. We held on to each other so we wouldn’t fly off the edge of the world, going home to Jalapa for the first time.

I'd show you how we had a football game in Miramundo, 12 ragtag gringo volunteers in a dustcloud, charging up and down the lopsided field against 12 Guatemalans in green jerseys, cleats, and orange socks.

It never mattered who won, it was enough to jump off a sandy mound with a karate warcry, screaming Whoohoo to scare the pants off the other team chasing the ball that rolled along a cow fence. We went home singlefile, you could see how far each person had to go- us sundown shadows so close to the pink and blue toffee clouds.

I'd show you when my best friend Marc and me went to Tikal. We got lost in the jungle and a monster rainstorm hit out of nowhere, we ran and ran, came out in a maze of temples where stone gutters coughed out rivers of mud; we tripped on vines and crashed down a hill swamping our backpacks and yellow slickers with mud; but we didn’t care, just huddled under a stone arch in the empty lost city.

We could have been the last two boys left on Earth, we were so far away from Ionia, Michigan, the small town that made us; we were not the same anymore and this place changed us forever.

Whatever happened to us out here is not a simple story for photo albums and postcards- no what I saw was a bigtime Broadway show...

WHOOSH and the Indian weave curtain opens, fire erupts from Papier-mâché volcanoes,100’s of showgirls kick bare legs with baskets balanced precariously on their heads, ayudantes execute perfect Fred Astaire flying heel taps dancing across stage prop cardboard bus roofs, noise man, noise; gunshots, cowboy yells, evangelico speakers exploding from too many hymns, chucho howls and the firecrackers go BOOM.

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