Until last week it had been nearly nine months since I’d set foot in Guatemala. June 18th my was last true night in Xela. That rainy night, dressed in my first suit, I went to my last Quinceaños and something happened that would shape the course of the next 9 months. As I look back it still feels like it was yesterday.
But it wasn’t yesterday, and a lot has happened in the between time. Since that night in June I flew to Hawaii for my little sister’s graduation vacation, flew to Tulsa for a wedding and to meet my amazing nephew Lincoln, flew to Washington DC for my cousin’s wedding, and then finally landed in Denver. Denver has been its own adventure, one I am still trying to figure out.
The story that follows is about my last Guatemalan adventure and why it took me nine months to write.
Three weeks prior to the big Quinceaños, I bumped into Alexa, the quinceñera, at McDonald’s. I was planning my own goodbye party with a couple of students when she came over and plopped a black and white card onto the table. “My invitation?” I asked. “Noob,” she replied. I waited for her car to drive off before I ripped open my invitation. The card was fancy, typical, but then I realized something different about the invitation. On the little card signifying that I was invited it said I could bring one guest. A date!
By handing me an invitation and telling me I could bring a date, Alexa had unwittingly filled my life with stress. I felt like Cinderella on the night of the ball in search of a dress. I needed a suit and a date. So little time. Okay! I’m exaggerating, I knew how to buy a suit.
The girl, well, that’s the adventure.
At first she had just been my gym crush. We’d done plenty of mutual smiling and eye contact followed by the quick head turn. But it wouldn’t ever work, I mean as far as I knew she only spoke Spanish and well, I was moving back to the states. However, I didn’t want to move back to Colorado without trying to talk to a Guatemalan girl.
The Switchfoot song Gone became my motto. The song says, live like there’s no tomorrow, because today will soon be gone. The song even inspired me to write a blog about living purposefully, which was really just my own pep talk to try to say hi to this girl. That was back in February of 2011. Taking my own advice I started aprovecharseing (taking advantage of) my time left in Guatemala, which meant talking to her the next time I saw her.
Okay, so the time after that.
I wasn’t going to waste any time. So, I enlisted Yasi, my running partner and go to girl for Spanish, to ask the girl what her name was. My plan was to have Yasi befriend her and then introduce me to her. Well, I finally met her and to my relief she spoke English. I was so nervous the first time we spoke most people might have thought I wasn’t the native English speaker, and if we hadn’t been at the gym my excess sweat wouldn’t have seemed natural.
The next day, after I finished my 100 sit ups or was it 1,000, I strolled casually over to her, real smooth like. I waved and made eye contact at the same time. Big first step, but then she took off her headphones. “What, she wants to talk,” I thought. I managed to say, hi. But then she kept talking, something I hadn’t planned on. Finally I manned up and asked her if she wanted to go out to coffee so I could practice spanish.
Two weeks later, when we finally went out, I didn’t speak any spanish.
My gym crush did not turn into a relationship.
I knew I was moving, and even though I created a great dance to the Taio Cruz song Heartbreaker, I didn’t want to play with her heart. I try to live honestly, so that first time out to coffee I told her we could only be friends. To my surprise she was so moved by my honesty she made sure we hung out every day for the next four months. And the night before Alexa handed me my invitation my gym crush begged me to stay. With tears rolling down my eyes I told her I couldn’t. I had another adventure to live and no job in Xela to keep me. Her heart was broken. She decided it was too painful to see me and so we said our goodbyes.
Okay, one statement in that last paragraph is true. You get to pick.
I was so busy trying to live each day to the fullest, that I kept on putting off the inevitable truth that I was moving, plus I didn’t know how to tell her. In my defense every time I thought our friendship was going to grow into something more, like when we’d go out for coffee, I’d vow to tell her the truth. But then I wouldn’t see her for a couple of weeks and I just kind of figured it didn’t matter. Why bother telling someone you’re moving when they just aren’t in your life consistently?
One of my friends nicknamed her Carmen Sandiego, because I was always wondering where in the world she was. By the end of May things were a little more consistent between me and Carmen Sandiego (not her real name). I’d told her I was flying back to the states to surprise my little sister for her graduation, but that I would be back for the end of the school year at IAS. To my delight Miss Sandiego wrote me daily while I was home in Colorado and told me how excited she was to see me when I returned. Her new enthusiasm gave me the resolve to tell her the truth. Honesty had to win out.
She picked me up from the grocery store the night I made it back to Xela and we went out to coffee. Like all good coffee shop conversations we started talking about failed relationships. And so I told her the current predicament I was in. How I liked this girl, but was moving.
She was upset, but said we would hang out all the time until I left. I even met her mom that night. Wow! Why hadn’t I told the truth earlier?
The thing about Carmen Sandiego is even when you think you’ve caught her, she slips right out from under your nose. By the time Alexa gave me the invitation to her party, I hadn’t seen miss Sandiego in a little while (more on that later). But the invitation gave me hope. I left McDonald’s and decided to walk home in the rain, which would give me time to think things over.
Deep in my heart, I hoped she would be at the gym, which conveniently enough was on my way home. As I splashed up the puddled street to the gym, I scanned the area for her car. No luck. Downtrodden, I climbed the stairs to the second floor of the gym. I’d use the bathroom and then head back out to the rainy night. Alone.
To my surprise on one of the treadmills across from the men’s locker room was Carmen Sandiego.
My throat constricted, how was I going to ask her to a dance? After I told her I was moving and she took me to see her mom, we’d gone out one more time and well, she’d spent the evening texting a friend. She was probably still heartbroken and too hurt to talk, but maybe she’d want to spend one last evening with me.
As we talked about work, and anything but the dance or my upcoming move, she offered me a ride home. “I’ll ask her then,” I thought. But no, I chickend out. Okay, but maybe we’d hang out again later that night. But no, my phone stopped working and so I spent the evening alone, such is life in Guatemala.
My final week in Xela crept up on me like Harry Potter in an invisibility cloak. Before I knew it, I had four days until the dance and hadn’t seen Miss Sandiego in a week. Really, I had given up on seeing her again, and I was kind of okay with that. I thought it would be fun to take her, but figured it wouldn’t happen. Maybe I was ready to move on. Fortunately a mutual friend showed up at my house and offered to drive me up to Miss Sandiego’s secret hideout. I jumped into her beat up jeep and she drove me to the pool hall. After we played a little pool, at which I won, she took me to Miss Sandiego, which was well out of my walking distance and in a more dangerous area of town.
She answered the door and explained that she only had a little time to talk. Faking confidence I told her I’d been invited to one of my student’s Quinceaños and I wanted her to be my guest.
She told me she would think about it, but that she didn’t like fancy parties and didn’t have a dress to wear. Girls sure are difficult. I made it clear that I really wanted her to go, but she wouldn’t budge. Finally, she promised to let me know by Friday.
That Friday night, the night before the party, she told me she would go, but only if she didn’t have to stay the entire night. I told her she was free to leave whenever she wanted. Heck, I’d say anything just to have her there. I was excited to have a date.
Saturday, the day of the party, I was hanging out with Fernando, one of my Guatemalan friends. His wife was out-of-town so we had been maximizing our time on the Wii. He thinks he is really good at Wii ping-pong, but I am better. I was in the middle of thumping him, again, when my phone notified me that I had a text. It was my friend telling me she was sorry that Miss Sandiego wasn’t going to make it to the dance. I picked my wiimote back up and let Fernando beat me a couple of times.
Three years of trying to date a Guatemalan and on my last night it just wasn’t going to happen. I thought I’d be terribly disappointed, but I wasn’t, and I’m still not sure why it didn’t bother me.
Fortunately I had an idea, why not take Fernando. The party was a strict black and white affair and Fernando is the type of guy who is always looking for a chance to suit up. He said yes, not hesitating for a second.
I got stood up by a girl, but the night wasn’t ruined because I went with a better friend. Heck, if Miss Sandiego had gone to the dance with me I wouldn’t have been able to pay attention to my students. I would’ve had to leave early when Miss Sandiego had gotten tired of dancing, which is something that never happens for me. Instead I had one of the most memorable nights in Xela.
The food was great, but that’s not what made the night. The dancing was awesome, when is burning up the dance floor with stupidity not the best thing ever? But again that’s not what made the night. Having Fernando there to talk to after I was finally allowed to sit down at the adult’s table (I had to explain I was a teacher and not a student) was a huge blessing, but eventually he left so he could get a good night sleep, as he was driving me to the airport the next day. My night was made by my friends. Those that came to the party just to say goodbye and give me back my sunglasses they’d kidnapped. It was made in the quiet moments when my friends told me how much I meant to them and that they would miss me.
None of that would’ve happened if Miss Sandiego had been there. She has since apologized for standing me up and so I ask my readers not to hate her. God had a plan for that night, it just took me a while to realize that fact.
Because Fernando came with me to the party it further cemented our friendship. It also taught me a little about how to be a true friend, something I have been working on doing here in Colorado. And now he and his wife are living in the states and I was able to host them when they came through Colorado last month. I thanked him for his friendship by beating him 7 straight times at Wii ping-pong.
That night in June as my students told me how much they’d miss me they stole my heart. Since then I haven’t been able to stop dreaming about Guatemala.
And then my dreams came true. No my old school wasn’t turned into Hogwarts, I was asked to form a team to lead the Spiritual Emphasis Week for IAS, of which I have written blogs for in the past.
So, why did it take me nine months to write this blog? Because I didn’t know what the story was about until I went down to Xela during the first week of March for the Spiritual Emphasis week. For the retreat we asked the students to share their stories, their lives. Time and time again my students came up to me and told me what was going on in their lives, how they missed me, and asked me if they could throw me into the pool.
As I listened in I realized my last Guatemalan adventure was a story about how I was never alone while I was in Guatemala, because I had about 170 or so friends I was blessed to work with each day. My students need to know that they made my time in Guatemala an adventure and they made that Quinceaños party special because they stopped being my students and started being my friends.
Sometimes it just takes awhile to realize who your friends are.
In the next couple of weeks I plan on writing more adventures from Spiritual Emphasis Week 2012, so please keep an eye out for new posts. The new posts will tell fun stories about my friends and how God worked in all our lives while I was back in Guatemala. You will also find out if I was thrown in the pool or not and if I got my revenge/or if I even needed to. Thank you all for reading and for being a friend.