Dual Entry #8

"What a Gift"

Like any good kid would, Scotty cleaned our little house right before his parent's came but all the Ajax in the world can't hide the fact that we live in Guatemala.  Think back to your college days when the parents were coming to visit your dorm room... or worse yet... your fraternity house.  The object was to impress them - to make them feel comfortable and to let them know you were fine living on your own.   Still, try as you might, you could never get the smell of stale beer and pizza crust out of your carpet. And, there was always that cigarette butt or racy magazine that slipped past your eye for detail... but never slipped past your mom's attention.

We checked into the Spring Hotel in Guatemala City at about half past five, three hours before the parental units would arrive.  In planning for their visit, we thought the Spring Hotel would be a fine place to put the folks up before heading to our home in Cantel.  When we opened up the door to room number 7, we looked at the room with the eyes of people who are used to indoor plumbing and regular bathing.  It was then, and only then, that we realized how much our world perspective had changed.  We finally noticed that the bathroom tile was moldy.  We noticed the bedspread that hadn't been washed since the Reagan Administration.  We saw the water-stained ceiling tiles that resembled some sort of drawings in a psychological test.  "Oh well," we said, "at least they'll know they're not in the United States anymore."

Mom and Dad and Hotel Spring

YIPPEE!  They're here!

And that is how the trip started.  Patricia Dannemiller, the adventurer with a love for creature comforts, and Ken Dannemiller, the man who likes foreign travel so long as it's in the U.S., came to visit.  From the get-go, they knew they were in for a wild ride.  While I did worry about their well-being, I knew they would pass the Guatemalan test with flying colors.
From the Hotel Spring, we moved to Cantel to stay a couple of nights with our host family.  Here, mom and dad got the taste of the "real Guatemala," not the one you see in tourist rags and travel shows, but the one that exists four-hour's drive from hotel chains and "English Spoken Here" signs. Here, they experienced power outages, traditional food cooked over a wood fire, burning trash, washing laundry by hand and using the "pee bucket" ay midnight.  The two of them slept in our slightly-larger-than-twin bed and slogged through the mud during the early start to rainy season.  

Mom reads to the boys

But most of all, they got to know the people of the real Guatemala... the one's we now call family and friends.  And this, admittedly, was their favorite part of the trip.  They traded hospitality with people who would be living on food stamps and welfare back home, if they were lucky enough to be able to apply in the first place.  They laughed and played with kids in our house.  They saw the tailoring talents of our host dad.  They watched wide-eyed as our host mom worked her tail off to provide for every need of the family.  Mom Dannemiller was moved to tears every day she spent here.   Dad spent a few speechless moments wondering what it all meant.
While we worried that they might get ill from the change in diet or nervous stomachs, nothing of the sort happened.  Instead, Scott left his lunch and dinner in discreet places in the open field out back... and Gabby's streak of not losing her cookies in Guatemala came to an abrupt end in Panajachel - finding a new use for the bidet that was in our "incredible value for the money" hotel.  

Our visits to the tourist spots was also memorable.  Especially powerful was our trip across Lake Atitlan to visit the tiny town of Santiago.  There, the folks came face-to-face with their past.  In 1981, a missionary priest from Oklahoma City (the hometown of Scotty and the Dannemiller bunch) was murdered on the church grounds in Santiago.  His only crime was helping tortured peasants combat a government bent on exterminating them.  Scott's folks had heard about and participated in memorials from Father Stanley Rother since his death.  So, when we got to visit the church in Santiago and read the story of Father Rother and walk the streets with the people he died helping, it was an emotional overload.  There, it all fell into place.  The parents felt the power of Guatemala, and the need to be in solidarity with the people here... living with them through their triumphs and tragedy.

Cross outside Father Rother's church

When we finally made it to the airport for the big send-off, everyone knew it had been a special week.  We thank God for this visit, filled with love, stories and new understanding.  This will make our return to the US easier on the whole family.  We couldn't be more grateful!