As I stare out the window at the Smoky's on my first leg, I reflect on how fortunate I am and how happy I have been over the last year since scaling back at work. It finally had seemed that the sun was starting to shine down on me and that I could breath even though in many ways I have been at a cross road in my personal life. I realize though that yesterday was defining in a much different and unsuspecting way and that life can turn on you in a heartbeat when you turn your back on it. It can then deeply mark you as if a dagger at your back and then turn you around directing you in an entirely different way than you ever expecting to go. This is all I can say for now. A dramatic turn, which has left me wondering of the days to come.
But for now I have this sheltered pause heading out of here to Central America that now seems to have been an uncannily well-timed trip. (Bill tells me when I call him from the airport still undone by the recent news to let it be. Just go to Guatemala. It will be ok and I am very thankful for him and his words). My internal world’s stability feels dismantled, not unlike a faulty line in the earth’s crust and I wonder if I will ever feel the same or truly trust what people say or more importantly the Universe’s protection. I guess for some, maybe I am parroting how they now feel about the United States after the recent election? I would venture to guess so.
I went to exchange currency when I got to the Atlanta airport at the same spot as I had done last spring. I was looking for the woman from Trinidad that I had mentioned in my previous blog. Instead, there was an African American woman standing at the currency exchange counter with its displaying numbers and names of countries flashing behind her. Her hair was short cropped and she was wearing tortoise shell glasses that were so clean I couldn’t help but stare and stare at their pristine reflection and wondered how she got them to look so bright and crystal clear. Mine always seem to have smudges on them even though I clean them daily.
I didn’t remember if the lady from Trinidad had been black or Latina, but intuitively suspected correctly that this an entirely different woman. The lady shook her head and said, no not her (from Trinidad) that’s her friend, “She was really short, right?” She asked me this as if I could even remember her height. She the calls her friend and said that there is a customer who wants to see her. She winks at me then says into the phone and bring more quetzals over. After she gets off, we chatted on for a few more minutes until she stopped and had to tell a man from India firmly that no matter how many rupees he has and wanted to trade the Indian government had prohibited currency exchanges. He bartered on undaunted by her as his wife stood by. He seemed to be enjoying himself, but she politely and steely stands her ground as he finally thanked her and walked away. She rolled her eyes at me and said, “They know this but they ask us anyway.” I got the sense that handling these types of issues very much a part her day.
She shared that she meets people from all over the world and even befriends a few because, like me they come back to the same kiosk over and over again. When asked the most common currency that is exchanged she told me Mexico’s which makes sense given its close border to us. She then articulated to me the right pronunciation of the quetzal as no matter how many times I hear it (and Lake Atitlan) I never say either correctly. Linguistic proficiency not my forte.
For some reason during our pause as we waited for her friend, I felt compelled to tell her my story and what had happened to me yesterday. And as I did I proceeded to breakdown and cry. I was only slightly embarrassed and really don’t care much as I had the comfort of anonymity. She listened and sympathized as any friend would do and I find this duly comforting in an odd releasing way. When her friend finally came to join us, they competently counted the money in an orderly fashion as I watched, and then the tortoise-shell glasses lady directed the short one in the same matter- of-fact way to give me a hug as if this was part of today’s normal business exchange. After my hug, the Trinidad lady reassured me that even though it is dark right now there is a light at the end of the tunnel and He is watching over me. I took her words as a nugget sent from the Divine messengered by these sweet strong women as I stepped away from the forming line and curious glances from those behind me. After I leave, I ventured that I will be back to this kiosk again someday.
My mom a month ago told my brother that there is a rumor, mind you, just a rumor that Kristin is going to Guatemala for Thanksgiving. “Isn’t it hard to get medical care there where she is staying? What if she chokes on a piece of turkey?” (as if they celebrate Thanksgiving here). Tim tells me all this as we laugh hilariously so. Tim tell me too that he had lunch with his ex-partner, Kevin recently and Kevin said that he wants to come back as me in his next life.
I get a different reaction from Jared who lives near Clemson, at the genetic testing dinner that I was speaking at last week when I confided in him my plans. Jared is my contact and the company’s rep and I shared with him, that I am headed to Lake Atitlan for the holiday. And in telling him this it even seemed incredulous to me. I held my breath for his reaction, as I looked over at his well-groomed self in a perfectly pressed suit at Ruth Chris Steakhouse. He laughed and said, "good for you" and I believed him because a month before he told me that he wished his wife would do more for herself and that he didn’t mind it when she went out and left him alone with their children and even encouraged her to do so more often. I got the sense that Jared likes my free spirited unpredictable self and maybe that is in part why he has chosen me to speak to psychiatrists and NPs for their company. He told me once to look up his friend who writes for the Huffington Post when I talked to him about writing and I found that I was questioning my original assumptions about him that were unfounded. That he different from me.
So it is that my soul beckons me here this time alone not with a group for my first Thanksgiving in Lake Atitlan.
My flight and exit through customs is seamless once again as I walked out into the mild Guatemala weather andwaited to see my ride. It seemed less overwhelming than the first time but I felt more insecure and weary today. Less trusting in humanity. A few men who work for the airport approached me outside and I tell them that I am looking for my ride. I glaze out at the few signs I see but none have the resort name on them. One man wants to help me and asks for the phone number of the driver. I give him Alberto’s number, the resort name and he calls. He then takes my suitcase and tries to lead me out of the crowded space to an area off to the side. I am very uncomfortable that he is leading me away from where I was told to wait.
I lag behind him as I watch my suitcase being wheeled away. I envision a conspiracy of me getting in a car with the wrong person and ending up God knows where. I stop him and say, no. I am supposed to wait back there I point. He shakes his head. I gently take my suitcase handle as I go back to where I am told to wait. He gently takes it back. I then again gentle redirect us to the spot outside of the airport doors. I decide to go inside and email Michelle to find out where the driver is. After a few minutes the airport guy has my driver who looks flustered. They call for me to come out. I tip the airport personnel for his help. He just looks at me quizzically. I have insulted him. The driver is trying to be very comforting and treats me like a small child as he takes me to where the airport guy was trying to have me go but we head inside instead. He doesn’t want me to feel unsafe outside. He says to wait for him here he needs to go pull the car around. I realize how ridiculous I must seem all-uptight and the tears come again. The tears from yesterday that should have come then instead of now. I leave the bathroom and he notices I am upset and misinterprets this to today’s experience.
I try to tell him everything is fine to go get the car I will wait. He leaves and I start to relax and glance at the case with pastries and empanadas. I realize that it will be a long drive and should eat something before we go. I point and ask if this one has meat in it. The lady who doesn’t speak English doesn’t know what meat is. She looks around for help and I say “chicken?” Oh, over here she says. I tell her no then I want this one instead pointing to what I think is a savory vegetarian one. It is sweet though. I marvel at the succulent plump raisins and the rich sugary filling as I savor it waiting for Alberto. I relax even more. He shows up a few minutes later and we drive away and head out of Guatemala City for the five hour drive to the lake.