There are no pictures. There are hardly words. I knew Guatemala was going to be rough around the edges. I knew that there would be deep poverty. I worried a bit for my children and jarring culture shock, and then I thought that culture shock is an odd problem to worry about. The guidebooks don't say it all. If they did they'd put themselves out of business. I was also aware that our first, and brief stop in Antigua was a bit like going to Disneyland before your stay in Watts or South Central L.A..
The drive from Antigua to Quetzeltanango was, to be blunt, awful. I sat in the back of the van and cried to myself. I couldn't even wrap clear thoughts around what I was seeing. I hesitate to describe it, because it feels disingenuous. Along a very busy highway, akin to our interstates, toddlers held babies in mountains of trash or slept, virtually in the road. There were children everywhere along the road just waving at the speeding cars. To stop? To help? To feed them? To pick them up and take them away? More than anything I am a mother, and the mother in me howled.
We arrived in Quetzeltanango, car sick from the wildest mountain ride I've ever experienced (and I live in some very serious mountains) and heart sick. from the poverty. What a word. I have seen what it means now. I don't profess to know what it means, anymore.
As I sat in my hired van, separated from the massive need around me, it felt a thin line. Over and over and over the same word kept spinning in my head. There is no rhyme or reason for the difference between my children and those beautiful children on the side of the road. It's nothing they asked for or can control. It all boils down to the cosmic whim of birthright.
It was a bad day. I felt it all. My kids felt it all. They were homesick and freaked. We went to bed sad and wiped out. But I am nothing if not practical. I knew it would get better. That there would be a calibrating. I waited a few days to write this, because some things have to be processed.
We are living with a host family, hard working Guatemalans. They are feeding us and sharing their home with us.. Right this minute, my children are laughing like wild hyenas with six precious kids, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and neighbors of our host family. They are shrieking and playing clapping games, listing friends, eating nerds, and making gross noises. We started school today. We are living amongst it and it's lovely. My big extended family is no different from this big extended family. Hardworking, kind, attractive, hospitable, generous, smart..............
Birthright. I'll be stewing on it for a long time.