Posts Tagged ‘Guatemala’

MFA and Finish

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

My word for 2018 was “Finish.” Finish the MFA degree and finish a decent draft of the manuscript for my first novel. Friends, I’m happy to report I did both. Here’s me with Olivia on graduation day, in my cap and gown, and giving my final reading in the Antioch library. I read the opening scene of my novel-in-progress, which seemed to provoke a strong reaction.

My word for 2019 is still to be decided.

Happy New Year! (no longer so new.)

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Jakelin Caal Maquin

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Many of us know the world of Jakelin Caal Maquin because our children are from villages like hers in Alta Verapaz. Their families are Q’eqchi, K’iche, Kaqchikel, Ixil, Mam, Tz’utujil, Chuj, Garifuna. They struggle in ways hard for us to witness, much less understand: The daily walks to the public pila for clean drinking water, the scarcity of protein, the homes that get washed away during rainy season, the inability to attend school due to the need to work, the lack of jobs beyond subsistence farming, the absence of any viable and lasting opportunity.

I read this paragraph in the New York Times and almost weep:

On paper, Guatemala is not poor; the World Bank classifies it as an upper-middle income country. But those statistics mask profound inequalities, the legacy of centuries of racism and economic control by powerful groups that even now resist attempts to soften the sharp edges of the country’s systemic discrimination.

We see it when we visit: the endless, crushing, inescapable poverty that defines the lives of indigenous Guatemalans. We hear it from our families, who tell us their only chance for a better life is to leave the country they love.

When I read stories like Jakelin’s, I remember my grandparents, who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Scotland and Ireland to America so their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren would not go hungry and suffer the way they did. My father was the first of his strain of the O’Dwyer clan born on US soil. Today, I benefit from their brave sacrifices.

My heart breaks for the soul of Jakelin, for her mother and father, her siblings and cousins. Their family is my family. We are one.

 

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Antigua parade Summer 2018

Sunday, August 5th, 2018


Maybe it’s the Rockette in my blood, but I see people moving in unison to music and I become that white lady with the camera, sobbing. This week in Antigua, Guatemala.

 

 

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Guatemala. Summer 2018

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018


Something I didn’t anticipate, but probably should have, is the way Guatemala now possesses my heart. I’m here with my kids, so happy to breathe in this place. (Yesterday we visited friends who are weavers in Xenocoj; the photo shows Olivia standing beside them, dressed in their beautiful traje.)

Other photos show the kids eating lunch at Pollo Campero and a bus with balloons and sticky notes. (This week was St. Christopher’s Day, patron saint of travelers and drivers.)

With every trip, my appreciation for this remarkable country deepens.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fuego and Pacaya

Monday, June 4th, 2018

The footage of Volcano Fuego erupting is mind-boggling. The latest reports state at least 25 dead and hundreds injured. Aurora International Airport is closed, and for miles beyond the lava flow, ash blankets roads, trees, and houses. Our family in Guatemala is safe, thankfully, but so many are not.

Guatemala is home to some thirty volcanoes. As I’ve previously posted, Mateo and I have climbed Pacaya several times; the photos here are from our trip in October 2015. Pacaya is known as “safe” to climb, unlike the mighty and active Fuego, whose name means fire.

Guatemala always is in our thoughts, now especially.

 

 

 

 

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Happy birthday, Rigoberta Menchu

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Happy 59th birthday to 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner and K’iche’ activist Rigoberta Menchu. Today is a good day to post a clip from the 1983 documentary she narrated, When the Mountains Tremble. Menchu’s voice throughout is riveting, beginning with these opening sentences–”My name is Rigoberta Menchu… I’m going to tell you my story, which is the story of all Guatemalan people.”

My family owns the DVD, but the film is probably available elsewhere on line.

When the Mountains Tremble is directed by Pamela Yates, who continues to make important documentaries about Guatemalan history, including Granito and 500 Years.

 

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Kallie and Maya

Monday, December 4th, 2017

We met Kallie and her daughter Maya in 2003, as we like to say “on the calle” in Antigua, when Maya and my daughter Olivia were babies in arms and Kallie and I each had moved to Guatemala to finish their adoptions.

Now teenagers, Maya and Olivia remain close friends–”oldest” friends, in fact–and Kallie and I share a bond that’s forever. Our families met up this weekend and remembered those days, and our other dear friends who fostered. xoxo

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Childhood cancer in Guatemala, photo-essay

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

The Washington Post published this photo-essay by writer Chloe Coleman about an 8-year-old boy from San Cristobal, Totonicapán, with T Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The piece is drawn from Scott Woodward’s documentary film project, “How I Live,” that looks into children’s cancer in resource-limited countries. “The treatment of childhood cancer in the developed world is largely viewed as a success story, with survival rates as high as 80%. By contrast, in Low and Middle Income Countries, the child cancer survival rate averages just 20%.”

To me, the essay is powerful on two levels–first, because of the boy’s brave journey in the face of cancer. And second, because the images convey rural daily life as it is lived by a majority of Guatemalans, in a way not often seen or recorded.

 

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Road trip to Tikal

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

Olivia, Mateo, and I just returned from visiting the great Mayan pyramids in Tikal, which is the reason I’ve been incommunicado. Not even phone reception in some places. I can’t remember when I’ve been so off the grid. We’ve been traveling with another family from our adoption group, Michele S. and her daughter Sofia, and the kids got along great. We drove through 9 departments in Guatemala–departments are like our states; there are 22 total–and saw a part of the country completely different from the highlands, where we usually go. The east and north are very dry and then very jungle.

We spent a night or two in Rio Dulce (details are a blur at this point!), which is beautiful and like I imagine the Amazon to be. We took a boat ride down the river and stopped at a hot springs, where a natural healer named Felix massaged the sulphur sands into my bad knee, and for good measure, the other knee, too. The kids loved soaking in the scalding hot water. An amazing day.

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Pastores

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

 

The town of Pastores near Antigua is known for its leatherwork. The main street is lined with shops where craftsmen custom-make boots and belts and handbags. My favorite wallet, of leather and cloth, was made in Pastores. We visited last summer with a friend whose daughter rides horses, and left with a handsome pair. I stumbled on these photos in an old file, and remember the happy day.

 

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