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
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!