Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Circle of Life- and the shapes in-between

When one thinks of the historical ‘bases’ in the game of life, the bases are often represented by birth, marriage, reproduction, and the home plate of death- with the reoccurring ‘high-five’ birthday celebrations along the way.  Over the past month I have attended and been a part of a few events celebrating and remembering these traditional stepping stones.

In an A-Rod/Texiera first-third double play, my neighbor Mary had her third child, Selvin Jr.  Celebrating new life and a legacy for the parents, Selvin Jr. is a healthy and happy baby and seems to be getting bigger each day I see him.


Besides birth, the only other unavoidable passing in life is death.  In memory of an important figure in the community who passed three years back, a mass and luncheon were held two Saturdays passed.  Having been the father of: the wife of the first PC volunteer in Chirrepec, Kamille’s neighbor and landlord, and ten children, it was evident the importance and respect this man  held within the community.  The gathering included ‘q’, a traditional chicken dish, tortillas, tamales, tea with cardamom, a full band, and handful of marimbas.  Christmas songs were even played.  Jingle Bells in Q’eqchi on the marimba was my Peace Corps equivalent of the warm feeling of hearing Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is you’ for the first time in the car and knowing the holidays are around the corner.

The son of one of my co-workers was recently married.   Kamille, in her traje, and I, in my pila-worn button down, trekked to the far-side of the Co-operative near the German ruins.  The sun was bright, the music was loud, and the baskets were full of tamales.  One thing my fellow volunteers and I have noticed at weddings is the seriousness of the newlyweds, including ‘mean mugs’ in virtually all photos taken at the celebratory occasion.  This couple seemed to be different, smiles brimming cheek to cheek and an clear feeling of elation to be getting married.  Seeing this change reminded me of gradual changes I have encountered throughout the past year with many of the youth in the campo.  For example, certain girls having education as their first priority, young men hoping to become doctors or architects, young women with self-confidence and hope for the future, and recognition there is more than just the path of the circle.

Gloria turns 22
Peace Corps is a journey of sharing, learning, and constant reflection.  Personal gratitude for our freedoms, access to education, ability to choose, diversity, and virtually endless opportunity were sentiments that seemed to ring true to a number of us volunteers as we shared what we were thankful for over our seafood dinners in Livingston.  Each testimony was followed by your best gobble gobble- I must say I think mine was the best.

Livingston is a prime example of diversity right here in Guatemala.  The black Caribbean community, or that of the Garifuna, came from an island in the eastern Caribbean.  Back in the 1630’s a pair of Spanish slave ships from Nigeria shipwrecked, creating a mixed culture of indigenous and West African traits.  During the late 18th century the Spanish and British moved the Garifuna population to Honduras and parts of southern Belize, at which point the Garifuna moved from Belize to what is currently the Livingston community.  Undoubtedly a unique experience, Thanksgiving was full of culture, seafood, and heat!

street music
typical dress
me jumping

In relation to heat, tomorrow evening is the celebration of Bolas de Gas in San Cristobal, Alta Verapaz.  Groups of local men make soccer sized balls out of old shirts and wire and soak them in gasoline overnight.  These balls are then set on fire and kicked and launched around, initially one for each corner of the plaza- symbolic of community—or so I’ve heard.  No worries mom, I will not be in attendance this year but thought it was a unique local event to mention.  The holidays have begun with a spark.   

Miss you all,

"Each of us has a fire in our hearts for something. It's our goal in life to find it and to keep it lit."
-- Mary Lou Retton

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