15 mayo 2011- domingo
Inside my new identity as Peace Corps volunteer, there lurks a proud mama….so it was easy choice to return to the U.S. this month. Nearly 23 years after birthing Alex, I enjoyed him showing off his well-perfected walking skills, striding confidently across the stage towards that bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design at the University of Colorado. Oh happy day!!! After multiple doodles which morphed into drawings, art camp and internships abroad, he has followed his passion to this point, with even a “special honors” designation for a high GPA. Parenting is the one job that if you do it well, your prodigy move onto a life of their own….and a gentle advisor role replaces that of 24/7 parent. A newfound freedom for both parties, with a prolonged adaptation period. His post-graduation life is moving forward with a construction job; he’ll gain useful knowledge of how design becomes a physical reality.
So it was a generational celebration, with grandparents coming together from both coasts to Boulder, Colorado. I had bubble-wrapped six Carnival (Mardi Gras) celebration eggs from Guatemala….wanting to surprise Alex with the fun splash of confetti from their interiors. Yes, he got pegged by his mom (devilish me, of course!), girlfriend, and 3 grandparents. Thankfully he took my prankish celebration in stride. Those eggs had survived a considerable journey! Seeing my parents again was definitely a bonus,..and fondly sharing this milestone with them.
Stepping onto U.S. soil after 9 months away provided me a fresh critique…starting with the sprawl of Dallas that unfolded itself below from my bird’s eye view. Dallas is perhaps an abrupt entry point…the land of BIG everything. It was a careful balancing act for 11 days, enjoying the embraces of family and friends and yes, the conveniences of America, but realizing that my life in Guatemala of simpler living awaited me after the brief flirtation of a visit. Hmmm…what had I missed? Warm water from the tap and washing machines were a delightful treat. Zipping around in my Prius also gave me a newfound personal freedom (and consciousness of U.S. gas prices!) My transport has been limited to walking or buses.
As for diet, I harbored no great pent-up need for particular foods, although I did sneak some cheddar cheese from one of my hosts…it’s very expensive and hard to find in Guatemala. I generally eat a soft cheese (queso de campo) wrapped up in leaves. Tasty but not like cheddar. Dining out as the treated guest throughout my stay almost elevated me to royalty status….well, emotionally at least. Sticker shock accompanied each of my purchases…with a proclaimation, “America is expensive!” In just one week I spent the equivalent of my monthly Peace Corps income, whoa! On nothing particularly extravengent either.
Seattle won my presence for the week following Denver…rolling out both welcome mat and invites to dance. I did miss 1 night of dancing, but my excuse is that I was deep in conversation with friends during a celebratory potluck…. A moment more precious than dance. The other 6 nights were dedicated to waltz, blues, salsa, and Bachata. More dance than I’ve done in 9 months in my adopted home, and perhaps those volcano-climbing muscles gave me the endurance for my dance week. I truly miss the company of men my age…I am developing female friends in Guatemala, but opportunities for male friendships are scarce.
A highlight of the week was giving a presentation about Guatemala and my Peace Corps work to friends and members at my beloved University Unitarian church…we laughed our way through a K’iche’ version of Heads-Shoulders-Knees&Toes….a Mayan language that still challenges me greatly.
So I am taking back photos of recycling containers and a renewed sense of purpose…I need to figure out how best to incorporate these environmental ideas into the challenges in Guatemala. Perhaps I have been overly conservative in my work, fearing being overbrearing, but new ideas, energy, and solutions are what are needed. Yes, there is a sense of guilt for the American consumption of energy and resulting output of greenhouse gases. Sadly, I am watching the news in the airport about the flooding in Mississippi, so all citizens of the planet suffer when nature is out of balance…yet it is poor countries like Guatemala that will absorb many impacts of climate change with an even more serious shortfall of economic resources. My resolve: when in the U.S., I can strive to minimize my environmental impact….in my adopted home, I can bring them the latest ideas and strategies for living lightly on this planet and harnessing its renewable energy.
Well, it is now time to find my way out of the Dallas airport to my Central American home. Re-entry in a few hours!