Our first 24 hours

 

December 28, 2008

Guatemala City

Zona 14

 

Our first 24 hours

 

I am writing from our 10th floor balcony and the view is magnificent !! The volcanos, Fuego, Pacaya and Aqua are beautiful and we have a perfect view of the aeropuerto Aurora runway. We have already had a great time watching the planes come and go. Every lift off of a giant jet amazes me. The air is very clear and refreshing, which is odd for a city of nearly 2.5 million (plus or minus a million) people. The altitude here is a little over 5000 feet, so maybe that has something to do with it. I have read that the City is urban sprawl at its worst and  unattractive, but I don’t find that so. I think the city has a beauty all its own. Like New York City, it is large and active and highly populated, but this brings along its own milieu. 

 

 We live on Avenida de los Americas, The Avenue of the Americas and on Sundays from 10:00am to 2:00pm the street, which is more like a boulevard with huge green belt separating the lanes, is shut down to traffic and people from all over the city come to walk and run or ride bicycles, sit on park benches and neck (young couples). 

 

It is known as Pasos y Pedales, which translates to walk and bike basically. It’s a very festive atmosphere with families out enjoying the sun and each other. 

We saw lots of kids wearing big smiles as they tried out their new bicycles that they got for Christmas, mom or dad running along side a few as they gained their balance. We walked all the way down the avenue and back, about 2 miles, and had a nice morning. 

 

The street vendors are on nearly every corner and they offer the most  beautiful fresh fruits, papaya, pineapple, mango or all kinds of nuts which are fresh from the grower. The nuts I recognized were macadamia, almond, walnut, hazel…there were many to choose from or buy a little of each. The vendor has a small scale (looks like the scales of justice) that he holds up and there is a counter weight (representing the amount you want to buy) on one side and the portion of nuts on the other. Primitive? Resourceful?Ancient? It works. Ice cream, juices, cotton candy, were among the many offerings.

 

Earlier, as we watch from our balcony, workers erected two very large tents on the greenbelt just in front of our building. When we returned from our walk we learned their purpose. Mass was being said and I would estimate several hundred people were in attendance. It was beautiful and poignant to hear their voices singing the Great Alleluia all together as we crossed the street.

We arrived in Guatemala City yesterday just before 1:00pm and our friends were waiting for us. It was so comforting to see their faces among the large crowd of people. They took us immediately to our apartment which is literally just a few blocks from the airport. Unbelievable! There was just so much going on that I really could not take it all in. My friend and associate has worked for over a month to assist us in finding our apartment and getting it rented and she had a dozen pink roses on the cocktail table, groceries in the refrigerator and pantry, utilities on…then the owner of the apartment and her daughter came over to personally give us the keys and to welcome us to the building. I don’t know how it’s spelled but all I could think of to say was, “I’m verklempt!” Mike Meyers had it right. Seriously, I was so overwhelmed that I had to struggle to keep it together. 

 

 

 

Over the last few months, I have seen over and over again the generosity of the people who are in my life and I feel humbled and filled with gratitude beyond measure. In the months leading up to our departure, our family and friends offered us loving support and warm shelter when living on the houseboat in December just wasn’t fun any more. All of my life I have struggled under the weight of my “I don’t matter, I’m in the way” story and it has entombed me in a lonely place in which I could not receive the generosity and support of others. The more costly aspect of this personal narrative is that because I did not know how to receive, I also did not know how to give freely. I would forfeit all I own and all that I’ve known to learn that one significant lesson. And, as it turns out, learning to give and to receive wholly may be the lesson of my life. Only time will tell.

 

Living in a place in which you do not speak the language brings things into focus quickly. It took us a few minutes to get into our building this evening. The security guard at the gate of our building does not speak english and did not recognize us because we just moved in yesterday and he just came on duty today. He asked for our names and It took a few tries before I was able to tell him we were residents in the building and gave him our apartment number. I thought he did not understand me because he was attempting to call someone. I thought he was trying to call the apartment to let us know we had a guest, but it ends up that he was calling the front desk to confirm who we were. When we got inside the building, Mario, the only person who speaks english and only works weekends, apologized for the trouble. I told him no problem! I appreciate the security! Yesterday it took us a while to figure out how to get out of the secure area. We just laughed and thanked God we have each other. Nothing will illustrate just how needy we all are like a language barrier. I have noticed, however, that a genuine smile is universally understood. I just love that part!

 

Our first 24 hours has been filled to the brim and overflowing with discovery and renewal and adventure and even a little sense of escape. There is so much newness to absorb. It’s every where all around us. It’s a matter of perspective. For us it is all new and different and surprising. For those who have lived here their entire lives, I am sure there is nothing too special about the air or the special sunlight or the volcanoes (we saw one erupting today!). Stepping out of our own little space on the planet where we don’t notice anything special about the ordinary has offered us a new perspective. It really is a choice to see the world with new eyes where ever we are. We don’t have to go to another country to discover and appreciate all the wonders around us every day…but it sure is fun!

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