Sometimes I can't
help but wonder what my life would be like if I had been born in
Guatemala. Would I have a college education? Would I be living
in a foreign country as a missionary? Would I have married much
younger? (Probably, since most everyone does! Even people in the
US.. but hey, I was a late bloomer, whatcha gonna do?)
So I started
thinking and I started writing. Maybe it was because for the
first time I didn't have my camera with me on a trip and it really
gave me more motivation to write, who can say? But either way,
this idea, this thought that I just "got lucky" being born
where I was born has been floating around my head for some
time. This is what came out.
I hope it makes
you think. I still do. Everyday.
If Mom were Mayan
My mom, Gayle Audrey
Kubo, was 36 when I was born. She was finishing her college
degree. She had met my dad, a widower, several years before
and later they married. I was born at Lincoln Park Hospital,
in Michigan, a healthy 6lbs, 13oz.
My mom was 36 years
old before she had me. He first husband left her when she was
unable to have kids. I am born at home by a midwife. I
am slightly underweight for a full-term baby at 5lbs.
My sister, Kerri, was born a year
later, well actually less than a year, because she was premature by two and a
half months. She had pneumonia and had to stay in the neonatal
unit for 2 months.
My sister, Kerri, was two and a half
months premature. She was born at home and the facilities were not
available to incubate her. She died before she was a week old.
At eight years of age, my Mom and Dad
divorce and the family of three moves to Texas. My Mom has
since finished college and finds a job in Houston as an elementary
When I am 8, my mom becomes
single. Dad moves on to greener pastures after they are unable
to have more kids, boys especially. Mom has to find
work. She has no education past the 6th grade - average for a
Mayan Guatemala. She can only find work on the fincas on the
coast, picking coffee. We leave family and friends to move
into the houses on the finca, with no water or electricity.
Around this time I start having
problems in school. My teacher suspects I need an eye
test. I get glasses at the age of 9. Because my Mom is a
single, working mother, I get a free lunch everyday at school.
Kids make fun of my free-lunch card but I eat three full, nutritious
meals per day. I never go without food.
I am asked to attend a Math and
Science Magnet school. My Mom let's me decide if I want to go
and I choose to stay in my regular, public school.
I'm still in school but start to
struggle. The teacher thinks either I have eye problems or am
a bit slow. We can't afford glasses if I need them so I am
moved to the front of the class and ignored.
We often don't have enough food to
eat, so my Mom sends me to school with only two tortillas. I
have a hard time paying attention because I'm hungry. I
continue to do worse in school and at age 11, 5th grade, I quit
In high school I want the Jordache
jeans and parachute pants but Mom can't afford them. We have
to buy them with our own allowance. We feel poorer than everyone
else we know. I graduate and continue on to college with the
help of scholarships, government grants and student loans.
I graduate in 1993 and get a job
for $18,000 per year. I feel poor and cheated.
I start working at the fincas 5 months
out of the year, helping Mom pick coffee. Because I am young, I only
get paid half of the going rate of $1.25 per day. I am now 16,
uneducated and a good prospect for marriage. I get married to
a 24 year-old supervisor on the finca.
I know nothing of government
assistance. The government I know just kills people for no
reason. I am poor and cheated.
I keep working, still single and live
with friends on the "good side" of Austin. In 1996,
I am 26 and know nothing of the global economy or the Peace Accords
By age 26, I have four kids. One
died shortly after birth due to malnutrition. I hear that a
peace accord is signed in Guatemala City. I feel no change.
In 1998, I travel, for the first time
to Europe. I feel worldly but know nothing of the world.
In 1998, I feel about 100 but I just
had my 28th birthday. I know there must be more to this world
but when as a family we only make $30/month, we are going nowhere
I work at the largest computer company
in America until July 4, 2003. I have a healthy 401k, a
wonderful husband, a house and two cars. We are living the
good life. We sell it all and move to Guatemala for a
It's 2004 and I continue to live on
tortillas and beans and I wonder if anyone outside my village knows
what it's like to be me...
Now I know I was NEVER poor or
cheated. I was dealt the good hand.
...poor and dealt a bad hand because
of where I was born.