I thought the words would come easily this week since there is simply a LOT to tell you. But it’s hard to get in the mood to write because we’re hosting Grand Camp Part Two this week. And while Essie goes to Drama Camp every morning Sarah and I are having Cooking Camp. So far we’ve done all things chocolate—boxed mix of chocolate cake, chocolate cake from scratch, chocolate icing from scratch and chocolate ice cream sauce. Aside from getting every single bowl, measuring cup, spatula and spoon in our house dirty, my laptop keys are a little sticky from playing computer games while cooking.
Also, my alter-ego, Fannie Flamingo has been poking me in the sides lately complaining that I need to change my profile picture and put out some publicity about her Pelican Protection Program on the Gulf Coast. It’s all I can do to keep her from taking over the keyboard. That might explain the sticky keys. Maybe it’s not chocolate but oil. Fannie always tells me, “It’s hard to type with feathers for fingers.”
I’ve been away from home over half of the month of July and I have to say I’ve really enjoyed it. I love travel and operating away from the familiar. Well. OK, I didn’t like the cramped airplane seat next to the guy who was talking to himself during the flight. And maybe the scalding heat in Guatemala was bad. Otherwise, I love travel. I love making a comfortable life for myself no matter where I am. I love the challenge of a single sparse suitcase providing everything I need. There’s just something very affirming to me about that. I’ve got the packing down pat and seldom lack for anything I really need. If I miss something I’ve learned that I can live without it.
I’m ready to go right back, too. Especially now that I’ve found a great restaurant in Antigua. “Where do you want to eat dinner tonight, honey? How about Guatemala?” I’m thinking next winter when it’s too cold to do anything outside. For all my complaining about the intolerable heat in the lowlands, the weather in the mountains is actually very temperate. Almost San Francisco-like without the upscale houses. We spent last August in the mountains in Xela and it was much cooler than Texas. I’ll bet Antigua in winter is great, too.
We had about three main activities planned: visiting the water installation, visiting the nutrition project and visiting the storm damage. Hurricane Agatha? Remember? But the best part of the trip was the journey itself. It’s never the destination; it’s always the journey. The bus rides and meals shared. Every time we visit we get to know these people better. In the past ten years we’ve graduated in “steps” from knowing their names to knowing their spouses’ names, knowing their professions, their needs (who has what disease and how we can help), and praying for each other. Someone told Linda once that you know your communication is good when you can joke with each other. I clearly remember our first joke shared: we were visiting a fort at Rio Dulce where the Spanish fought off pirates. Ludin put his hand over an eye to suggest a pirate's patch. This trip we again graduated from short one-line jokes to stories. Around the table one lunch we got to talking about how we had each met our spouse. The stories involved different voice inflections and facial expressions and lots and lots of laughter. I later asked one of the guys who was the better cook—his wife or his mother. I cannot reveal his honest appraisal because I am sworn to secrecy.
There is always a moment on the trip where I become unglued and can only laugh at the situation. It’s usually at the end of the trip when I’m tired and the absurdity of something hits me and once I start laughing I can’t stop. The laughter stays with me for a couple of days when I’ll periodically remember the joke and start laughing all over again.
That moment came for me about the fourth night into our week. We hadn’t stopped to catch our breath since our plane touched down. We’d watched the water treatment installation and listened to the health and water education class, been to see the malnourished children at the Nutrition Project. We’d been to watch the finishing touches and dedication of the Living Waters for the World treatment installation in one of the churches. We’d eaten foods we’d never eaten before including fish with heads, eyeballs and everything else still attached. And toured the damage from Hurricane Agatha.
To put it succinctly, I was beat. I was overwhelmed, hot, tired and emotionally spent.
Linda and I always room together on these trips. We are about six months apart in age and seem to be in a race to see which of us reaches senility first. Consequently we spent a lot of our time wondering where our room key was only to find it in a pocket. But Linda and I travel well together. We complement each other. Where I bring little more than my toothbrush Linda brings so much equipment in her luggage that I wonder in amazement how she was able to fit her clothes in. Her suitcase is filled with wonderful accouterments like shower hooks and tiny book lights so we can each read in bed without bothering the other. She brings an electronic luggage scale because the group is always at risk of going over the 50 pound limit. She packs about six boxes of granola bars and trail mix. One day I saw her get a four-pack of toilet paper out of her suitcase. I think Mary Poppins’ magical bottomless bag was modeled after Linda’s. I am never surprised at what she digs into her luggage and pulls out.
By the end of the day on Tuesday I was laying on my bed with my arms and legs spread out in an effort to keep sweaty body parts from touching each other. I was trying to decide if I had the energy to shower before bed. Linda pulled a small fuzzy yellow pouch out of her suitcase. She unzipped it and poured out a zillion tiny plastic squares onto my bed and asked in a perky tone if I wanted to play Bananagrams.
What? It’s a game, she said. Why on earth did she bring that? “In case we wanted to play some games in our ‘down-time.’” I started laughing and couldn’t stop. I hooted and howled. I snorted and snuffed, trying to breathe through heaving spasms of hysteria. I couldn’t believe Linda had the idea that we would have ‘down-time.’ She knew these trips as well as I did but kept looking at me wide-eyed like she had no clue of what I was laughing at. Then she slowly understood me and joined in. Sure enough, for that tiny little ten minutes we had downtime. But we spent it laughing instead of playing Bananagrams, For the next two days I would periodically hiccup a tiny laugh just thinking of that moment.
More info about the water in Guatemala next week. Too much water. Bad water. I will try to hold Fannie at bay until I catch you up on Guatemala.