I’m forgetting stories. Things people shared with me that I was present to, but did not write down, in an attempt to be fully present in that moment. I love recording, for it aids in re-membering (literally) an event or an encounter. When I record though, I do not listen as well or with the same presence. So, this trip, I sacrificed recording for the greater good of presence.
I’m about to do something a bit crazy and tell you a story about someone. This isn’t chronological, but rather, it’s just a snippet. When I write about Guatemala, I’m challenged; how do I honor and acknowledge my time there without getting mired in a sense of loss that I am not there now? A month ago, I was in Zona 7, fully in touch with my body, fully in touch with my gifts, with listening. Today, I’m in the United States, spending way too much time driving, and not fully in touch with some key things.
At Casa de Retiros, there were several Guatemalan women who ran things: they prepared our meals twice a day, cleaned the rooms, made sure everything was set for new occupants. These ladies were phenomenal cooks (even though we mostly had American food)—I even tried plantains (a challenge because of their texture), and got to eat some bean loaf, queso, and bread. So delicious. Our food would appear in the window, we’d pass it to the table, and the ladies would sit and wait in the kitchen, chitchatting with each other, until we finished and passed dishes back into them.
These ladies intimated the pants off of me. Groups of older women, speaking in a foreign language… YIKES. Everything in me wanted to ask them questions, but I felt inadequate in my language skills. At first. As the week progressed, I became more bold and more willing to risk, because the trade-off was worth it. Plus, I had to ask them questions for help with something around the house, so I just went from there.
The first woman I spoke with was in her late 30s; we talked on Thursday. Yes, it took me that long to ask. She was single and wanted to stay that way. We connected over that; earlier that day, I’d had conversation with girls in the sixth grade (they ranged from 10-15 years old) and they had wanted to know why I wasn’t married with several kids. The easiest answer we could both understand (soul/spirit understand, not language understand), was that I still wanted my freedom. I think, though, that freedom for them, meant not having to raise 4-7 children on my own. To me, I can see how that is not something that I want. This woman who worked at the Casa felt the same way. She had been told by her doctor that if she wanted to have children, it needed to happen in the next year or so. We spoke on the stairs. I shared how I felt about my awkwardness with the language. Through the inability to find *just the right word*, she and I still smiled, saw each other, and connected. I can still see her smile, in my mind’s eye. I wish I had written her name down. Her generosity in sharing her story was consistent with the generosity and hospitality I met all throughout Guatemala.
The second woman? She was older… I’ll have to tell you about her tomorrow. Promise.