Journals have a strange way of popping up from what ever dust-covered box they’ve been hibernating in and dropping some long-forgotten wisdom on us. Tonight was no different and I found myself thumbing through one of my journals from my Peace Corps days when I served as a teacher in Guatemala. An entry from my last month there – after almost two and half years of service – spoke up tonight. While these experiences are personal – I feel there is value to sharing this. A reminder to slow down and find those moments in your life worth remembering.
Journal Entry from April 2005 / written in Salcaja', Guatemala:
It’s been a long 26 months. Yet most of it seems to be only blurs of memory. So before time erodes all – what do I want to hold on to?
- The sound of rain on my tin roof – relaxing and rhythmic – other times coming down so hard as to deafen the world. And the sweet, wet smell in the air after the first rain of the rainy season after months of dry dust.
- The overwhelming smells of the Tuesday market day – fresh vegetables and fruits, livestock, dried fish and meats hanging in the open stalls.
- The colors! Multicolored corte (1) hanging everywhere through the town – like ancient tapestries recording every rainbow since the dawn of earth. Every stitch of the huipils (2), every fading inch of paint, every shade of fresh grown produce.
- The children. My children! The incessant chants of “Profe’ (3) Billy” as I approach the school – I try to quiet them every time – but I am never daunted because I cannot.
- The smiles and saludos (4) of the people in my town. I love having to take an hour to walk three blocks.
- Purple sunsets behind a smoking silhouette of a volcano from my rooftop.
- The purity of one’s laughter when it is practically all they own.
- The relentless itch of flea bites – as unyielding as the crowing roosters – completely unaware that we believe they only crow at dawn. The firecrackers almost every morning – the internal jolt of the larger fireworks.
- The secret excitement when you feel the tremors of another earthquake – a badge of honor.
- The way that dogs have long lost their identities as pets and you are on constant guard from every chucho (5) that passes near.
- The rhythm of hand washing clothes against the grated cement in your pila (6).
- The pure exhaustion of just living in Guatemala; hand washing clothes, shopping in street markets, always preparing food (the idea of a microwave now just a ghost), cleaning, walking everywhere – everything quitando todo sus ganas (7) – but still feeling good and honest in every act of your life.
One day, I’m sure all of this will slowly fade from mind. Erased by time and comfort of another reality – but right now, while I can – I want to savor every detail. Every life-pulsing-flowing moment! And if I ever need a reminder – read these words well – because this has been living.
Editor note: This is reposted from my LinkedIn posts from October 21, 2014.
(1) corte – traditional Mayan skirts
(2) huipils – traditional Mayan blouse
(3) Profe’ – teacher
(4) saludos – greetings
(5) chucho – a street dog
(6) pila – all-purpose washing station for rural Guatemalan life
(7) quitando todo sus ganas – take away all of your energy and desire