Friday, August 26

Journal: Thursday August 18, 1:29 AM

For whatever reason, I'm unable to sleep right now, so I figured that I'd update you on my journey: arriving, going through customs, meeting up with my parents, and settling in.

Arriving. Well, not much to say here--we arrived, :) Arrival was pretty uneventful. I was offered a wheelchair when I reached the front of the plane and turned to go down the jetway. I politely refused, which seemed to puzzle the woman who brought the chair. I told her that wheelchairs were, "... for people who aren't mobile; I am, so no thanks." Then, for whatever reason, they paired me up with a guy who didn't speak any English beyond a few words. This may not seem all that strange in an airport in Guatemala, but I speak no Spanish. Additionally, I like knowing about my surroundings, especially if they are in a country that I've never traveled to before. So, as we're walking down the winding ramps of what must have been the jetway, and through the initial hallways of the airport, I'm trying to get some information from this guy, and all he's saying is, "Customs," whenever I try to ask a question. I did verify though, several times, that he did not speak any English.

Customs. I have to admit that I was somewhat worried about going through customs. Most people I've talked with said its no big deal--you give them your passport, they may ask you a few questions, they stamp the passport, and you go on your way. I honestly didn't know what to expect, and was prepared to answer questions, if need be, from whoever was in customs. However, none of this happened, the question answering anyway. We walked up to what I now know were different booths, like maybe cubicals in an office. The Spanish speaker asks me for my passport, by simply saying, "Uh, passport?" I gave it to him, he confers with the person doing the reading and stamping, I hear a loud click which must have been the stamp being applied, and then I was given back my passport. This is where things got interesting though.

I had decided that I was tired of not knowing any information, and said to Seniore Spanish Speaker that I wanted someone who spoke English. I mentioned this several times in several diferent ways, so there would be no miscommunication.

We've reached the point where I think, looking back, that God was watching over me. A woman (whom I later found out was another passenger on the plane) came up to me and asked what the matter was. I thought she was from the airline or with the airport, so I said that I wanted an English speaker and wanted to talk with someone that I could understand. She conferred with my Spanish friend, and then offered her assistance. She asked me if Spanish Speaker could come along with us, to which I said, "That's fine. I just want to be able to talk to someone and get information. That's all."

From that point, things were pretty uneventful, except for the fact that I was asking this woman quite a lot of questions, like about what we were walking through, what things looked like, and so forth. We finally got to baggage claim, and after about 15 minutes, my bags were retrieved. Thankfully, my sister in law, Brandy, put some pink ribbons on my bags so that they were easy for the people to spot. Otherwise, I'm not sure what I would have done. Anyway, we got my bags and then went on to the exit. One other interesting thing about the baggage area was that you could here the barking of the drug sniffing dogs not far away. The woman I was with didn't know what kind they were, but she did say that they were big dogs.

In Guatemala, or at this airport anyway, people without a ticket aren't allowed inside the airport, period. There's a main exit, and as the pop culture saying goes, "... If you don't have a ticket to ride, you can't ride." When outside, you're covered by a roof, but you can clearly hear the taxis and other cars. This structure took me a little while to fully grasp. Anyway, my Mother came over and greeted us. My Dad was not far behind. Then, with me still thinking this woman was with the airport or airline, like I always do in the States, I pulled out a 1 dollar bill and tried to give it to her. My Mom said later that she tried to tell me before I could pull it out, but I was too quick for her. The woman politely refused, much to my puzzlement, but finally my Mother was able to tell me that this was one of my fellow passengers, to which I accepted and put my dollar away. Then, as we were walking to my parent's car, the truth of what my Mother had said fully sunk in and I realized the kinds of questions I was asking this passenger, were ones that she probably didn't know the answers to. Such as, "Since English speaking people seem to be sparse around here, is there any way that I can reserve one for when I come back to the airport for my return trip home next week?" I must say that this puzzled her (I now know why), but after asking Spanish Speaker, she relayed that he said that there would be an English speaking person at the airport when I was to leave. Beyond that though, in terms of that question and its material, she admited that she didn't know.

My parents live about 20 to 25 minutes from the airport, which actually is closer to DFW Airport than their house in Dallas. They live in what Dallasite's might call a subburb. As we drove back to their house, I told them my adventures with the Spanish speaker and with what turned out to be a fellow passenger. I was surprised a little to realize that the roads in Guatemala City, in spots anyway, aren't as well paved as I'm used to in the States. In fact, as we drove further away from the city itself, the roads got worse and worse. My Mom said that there were potholes in various places, some filled with water which I did not need to know, and hacing other non-U.S. road conditions. In addition, my parents live up a hill. And, what I also didn't realize is that Guatemala is at about 5,000 feet altitude. This is not so good news for me since it has, over the years and through many trips to Colorado, taken me longer to adjust to the altitude than others due to shortness of breath and other things.

My parents have a two story house where tiles, blues, and steps are very common themes. In other words, there are lots of tiled floors and in the bathroom tiled walls, blue is a very common color of these tiles and of the bedspreads and pillows, and there are steps everywhere. And I'm not just talking about the spiral steps that go from one floor to the next. There are literally steps to get in the bathrooms (you have to step up at the threshold), steps to get in the showers (most of which are steps up or steps over, but I actually saw one shower with a step down), and in other places. This would not be an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant house for people in wheelchairs, :)

Due to the delay in takeoff, we got home about a half hour later than we might otherwise have. The rest of the evening was interesting. My Mother gave me a mini-tour of the stairway and upstairs. The house is very spacious with plenty of room for a number of people to live and stay in. My parents said that they have had mission teams with 6 or 7 people in there before, and them, and everyone had enough room, if that gives you an idea. In fact, they said that sleeping bags could be put out on the floors on the first floor, and not cause too much of a problem, except for stepping over bodies. We didn't do a full tour of the house, but one thing that stands out is the deck. They have a "car port" or garage for their SUV, but on top of the car port is a deck, that one can access from one of the rooms of the house. It's a good size concrete deck, not too big but big enough for several people to sit out on. What was also interesting is the fire crackers and gun fire we heard before we all went to bed. Apparently, Guatemalans are prone to celebrate whenever the occasion arises, and what better way to do that than by firing off guns in the air or fire crackers. It was kind of odd at first, but then it seemed to go into the background for me. Like I told my Mother though, "As long as they shoot them up and not sideways, I'll be fine." She assured me that I was safe with them.

Not too much else to tell. I did get a glimpse into what my parents go through emotionally. Brandy packed a second suitcase for me to take that had various items for my parents to have, like things they might have forgotten. She also included some pictures and a constructed booklet of pictures and drawings from my 3-year-old nephew, called "Finley's
Artwork." After my Mother looked at these things for awhile, she said that she was lonesome for her grandsons. It was then that I got a small glimpse into how the other half lives; how life is like for my parents who seem to live on pictures and emails and the regular phone call, and who may not have as ready access to their family.

That's about all for now. I think that by the time I edit all this, I'll be closer to going back to sleep. Until later, this is the tired but satisfied, Wayne signing off.

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