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Giving Thanks


Thanksgiving slipped in today, somewhere between the thickening green canyons of the Maya Biosphere Reserve protected lands which marks our entrance into Alta Vera Paz and the colorful plastic plates lined up under the light of one bulb, black beans, scrambled eggs and tortillas, held by young indigenous women laughing and listening to the radio. Tired and hungry they huddle next to each other and keep warm like small birds on a wire. They came down from Peten at three in the morning for the first time to Coban to learn how to do radio in their communities and I put one of my small shortwave radios in their hands and they know every station on AM/FM. The Comppa cooperative trainers also journeyed, 14 hours from Honduras; I picked them in Guatemala City from a youth cultural center in Zone 1, three women, one pregnant, backpacks, a big silver bullet suitcase for their training gear, and fearlessness. I drank my cold coffee and watched them load the Tule and took my orders.

I didn’t sleep last night before because I was terrified of making the leap alone into Guatemala traffic, roads, chaos and utter randomness. I put one foot out before I went to bed and the other foot hung on the wing of the plane just waiting for the leap. I tossed in between. In the morning, I had decided. There was only one way I was going to find out who was winning this one. Pues me tire al aire, a los elementos. I stepped out of the shower and said, “Today, I leave the roost.”

As we climbed higher on a two lane road shared by motorcycles, truckers, pedestrians, the occasional sinkhole and car riddled by 20 or more bullets, along with national police doing random checks, I marveled at the drop off straight down into pine, cedar and raw terrain. I avoided head on collisions at steep curves passing camionetas carrying people, animals or beer and did not think for a moment, until now, of how close we always are to death in Guatemala. “En Guatemala hay que vivir a verga,” performance artist Regina Jose Galindo told me during an interview. A verga. A hard word to translate, but in Guatemala you have to live as if you’re getting screwed.

colorfulplatesNow I write from a church cultural center in Coban, a big triangle made of cedar. I’ll sleep in the attic with three other trainers in a room full of bunk beds. One floor below are the girls and tomorrow at six our day begins. But in my head there are only triangles because I am sitting on the left wing of the triangular building, writing on a wooden floor that has seen many feet rest their body’s weight and trust. I think of things coming together in the same way, how things mundane become sacred. How we decide to enter the unknown and to trust others. Because of this I’m thankful for presence, for the small lights in the darkness that guide our way.

One thought on “Giving Thanks

  1. admin says:

    This is such a lovely piece. It feels like almost being there and experiencing it. I do believe more should be thankful for the presence and how small lights in the night guide us. It is ironic how lights in the dark really guide us more than the lights in the day. Maybe the path is clearer when you have the contrast of darkness around you letting you see the lights – small and big. I don’t know. Maybe.

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