Here I am stuck in the third world. Three years pinned down with no guarantee of electricity, dry streets, or connection to the outside world. Maybe stuck and pinned aren’t the correct words, but sometimes they’re the only way to describe how I feel. I felt stuck at times during my first year in Xela, when I didn’t feel like I had any friends. I felt stuck when my friends’ weddings passed me by and I couldn’t go. I’ve missed at least two weddings and one birth; not fun. And I felt stuck last June when tropical storm Agatha wouldn’t let me leave; all I wanted to do was be home with my family. It was as if I had my hand pinned between a rock and I couldn’t move, just like Aaron Ralston, who’s harrowing struggle with a rock was the subject of the Oscar nominated movie “127 Hours” staring James Franco. Fortunately over the course of two and a half years I’ve realized what a blessing it has been to be stuck in Xela. And after watching “127 Hours,” I’m glad I didn’t have to give up an arm to realize the importance of having a community. I’ve celebrated three birthdays away from my family and the friends I grew up with, and it’s been hard not having them around. But it has also shown me how blessed I am here in Guatemala. I am not alone.
I came to Guatemala as an individual, all alone. Unlike Aaron Ralston, I didn’t come as a man who wanted solitude, dreaming of living life on my own, but as an individual who wanted to see what life outside of the states had to offer. From the very start, when I was only 24, I knew I needed people around me to make my life worth living. Now I am 27 and I feel like I have more of what it takes to be a man than I did when I first found myself stuck in the guat. I know being a man doesn’t mean doing everything on my own, but having a community to share with.
Most people would say Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers are men, despite both having played for the Greenbay Packers. According to stats I’ve read about Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, both won their only Super Bowls at 27. At 27 I have yet to win a Super Bowl. But who knows I might move back to the states and join the Broncos and win multiple Super Bowls. If men are judged on what they have done, then am I a man? Sadly, I haven’t won a Super Bowl yet. I could win multiple Super Bowls (Be better than Brett and Aaron) but that’s not what would define me. You know what I have done though, what defines me? I have begun to write again. I have decided to go after my dreams, not Aaron’s or Brett’s. Last month I applied to a creative writing program. If I am accepted or not, at 27 I know that I am doing what it takes to be a man. Each day I set out to love those around me in the best way that I can. Because maybe they need to know that they need someone. I am adding my life to the community around me and hopefully with a little love mixed in I’ll end up at age 28 stuck right where God wants me.
Here are some of the fun memories from my 27th birthday.
-On my Birthday I was showered with hugs and choruses of Happy Birthday (both in English and Spanish). I think my favorite gift was when I walked into the elementary lunch room and the Kindergartners jumped up with excitement and started singing to me.
-That night most of my friends, most everyone on the Inter-American staff, came out to have dinner at Don Rodrigos, a little restaurant that serves beer and burgers. I had a sandwich and an Orange Crush, ha!
-On Saturday night my students, most of the high schoolers, took me out to pizza. Sometimes the freshmen boys, especially Skyy and Jose Pab, are a little crazy, but they know how to make someone feel appreciated. And I am grateful for them.
-On Sunday I went ziplining with Jon, Laura, Kacey, Blake, Amy, Fernando, Stephanie, Mike, and Karen at Velo Xtremo, just a few of the people my life has been mixed with. We all risked our lives and had a zipping good time doing it!
Life would not be worth living if I didn’t have all of you, my readers and my friends in Guatemala, around me. Thank you for the part you have played in my past 27 years. Here’s to many more!!