Gabby's Entry #13

"Where Do We Go From Here"

Sometimes I try to remember what life was like before Guatemala, the bliss of ignorance allowing me to feel that I was somehow living in a better time.  Scott and I were happily skipping through our D.I.N.K. life (double-income, no kids) enjoying the finer things - travel, dinner out with friends, weekends on the coast, drinks at happy hour - unaware of so much of the world around us.  Before coming to Guatemala, I had never been exposed to the harsh realities of poverty, the injustices suffered for the sake of human rights, and the struggles of third world countries.  It never really occurred to me that there were countries that actually wanted to keep their people down - uneducated and therefore, manipulated.

We had no idea what we were in for!

Recently, I was struck with such utter sadness as we watched "Romero", the story of the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero in his struggle to stop the violence in El Salvador.  Before now, I would have thought the movie, though based in reality, had been sensationalized to accentuate the horror.  After reading and hearing personal stories about Guatemala's history, I realize not only is it true, but that there are 1000's of other stories like it.

Two days ago, we went to Centro Maya, our rockin' language school and were chatting with Tito.  As with many Mayans, once you get to know them, they often have more stories to tell than you have the time or the capacity to take in.  We were telling him about our struggles with Spanish as well as our small victories.  We were enjoying sitting on the couches, a rare treat in our lives these days, and soaking in the sunshine on their patio during break.  We mentioned we were were reading I, Rigoberta Menchu and Guatemala, Nunca Mas and how sad and heart-wrenching these books were.  Tito said, "Yeah, I had three friends killed in Zunil.  We were young... in our twenties. They lived in Zunil."

"Zunil?!" we both said, surprised.

Zunil is a town only ten minutes from where we live.  We often catch the cram-packed Zunil chicken bus to get home from Xela.  We have a special love for this place with its beautiful, wild, and sometimes wacky corte fabric that is black but filled with colorful images, from dogs to chickens to zigzag patterns.  

Tito told us that you don't hear a lot about their past because it is a place that has chosen to forget.  They weren't found in the lists of massacres in the book we were reading, that has been condensed down from four volumes.  He said in this town, they were hit hard.  One day, the army would come in and slaughter a bunch of people, then the next day, the guerillas, and then the next, the army.  It all sounds like a bad plot to an even worse movie, but instead of being a fiction-novel-turned-bad-screenplay, it is the history of Guatemalans and Central American families.

Where is all this going?  What can we do?  These are questions I grapple with almost daily.  How is the U.S. still a part of t his?  What are we really doing in Iraq, and how many friends have been killed in a war they can neither understand nor want?  Why do governments insist on fighting?  What as it ever accomplished?

Some would say FREEDOM, but freedom from what?  What if countries didn't believe they could own the earth, but rather we should just feel privileged enough to be able to live in such a place?

And then we have our Youth Group come down to Guatemala for a week in March, and we see the blessings and hope for our future.  Seven high school students who were willing to give up ski trips and vacations to Hawaii (this is no exaggeration) to spend a week with their Guatemalan brethren.  Fourteen parents who had the faith to allow their children to come. 

Pic left: 
Austin FPC Youth in our front yard 

One girl who suffered a seizure while in Guatemala continued on the trip after she recovered.  A mom who received a call from Guatemala saying her daughter was in the hospital, eight hours later told her 17-year-old that if she wanted to stay and felt she was safe, that she should.  After the trip, a 16-year-old boy wrote a seven page paper "to get the word out" about a new reality he saw with his own eyes.  I remember being a junior in high school, but I can't remember EVER being motivated to write a paper because I WANTED to.  Sure I could write notes to my friends of that magnitude with a fancy paper fold, but my writings were all focused on my teen angst and my wretched middle-class existence.  Oh how naive!  How refreshing to see that there are others now in my place with "readier" souls and a service-minded vision.

I have yet to determine what all this means to me, but I know that forever my life is changed.  I now have family in Guatemala.  They all have smiles and tears and faces and names - memorable laughs and endearing expressions.  

May God continue to open our eyes this year and help us to see where we go from here.