i am eating macaroni and cheese for dinner and it's not just any mac and cheese. it's the real deal. the real kraft macaroni and cheese - the thing that all of the canadians i’ve met and worked with in the past year call kraft dinner (we don’t do that in the united states, do we? call it "kraft dinner"? i didn't think so). funny thing about kraft dinner is that it was a topic of many a disucssion with the last group that was here. in fact, the topic of food, and food we actually like and have cravings for, has been something i have spent a good amount of time thinking and talking about with these groups. i have been continually reminded and surprised by how extremely important the basic human necessity of food consumption can become when one is placed in new and unfamiliar settings....when one is served black beans and tortillas for breakfast, lunch, and most likely, dinner, when all you really want and are used to is a big ol' bowl of kraft dinner. the connection between our need and desire to eat and how that makes us feel, both physically and emotionally is intriguing. this basic human need and fulfilling it, seems to contribute in a large part to making one feel comfortable and at home, familiar and safe.
like food and the need to eat, a sense of security, be that emotional or physical, is another basic human need that i have spent a lot of time thinking about here. maybe i've been thinking about it because of the high homicide rate in guatemala, i find myself living in one of the most violent countries in the region. maybe i've been thinking about it because the registered mortality rate in the first two months of 2009 was 69%, up from 38% in 2008....maybe it's because there are 200 registered (and not all, by any means, are registered) assaults on public buses daily in the city and 33 bus drivers of these public buses were murdered between january and march of this year.....maybe it's becuase i really can't walk on the steet, be it day or night, alone or with a group, without feeling on edge because within just one block of my house i have experienced two robbery attempts and one success........maybe it's because this issue of violence and insecurity is something that we repeatadly talk about amongst ourselves here but also with the groups that visit.....maybe it's because this is the reality of life in guatemala today, but also the reality and context of violence and pain that guatemala has lived for years - the reality that places like my country, our country, the united states, have often played a strong role in shaping....maybe it's because this last week thanks to holy week festivities, myself and a couple of other hundreds or maybe even thousands of guatemalans, were able to stay out in the streets past dark and actually do so in peace....maybe it's because i had almost forgotten how good that can feel, how normal that should be for everyone, and how sadly, that is not normal here.
but maybe, i have been thinking about this because even in the midst of all that is and has been the reality in guatemala, life has been continuing and continues to continue. life in the form of so many beautiful traditions and stories and people and landscapes....life in the beautiful and naturally artistic holy week "carpets" that i saw on the streets this past week and the vigor in which so many worked at preserving this years-old tradition....life in hiking over a mountain from nebaj to a small community on the other side and feeling like i was walking through the swiss alps....life in the group of young people i met in that community, full of joy and laughter and energy....life in hearing the story of one of these young men, the son of indigenous parents who joined the guerrilla movement during the civil war out of fear for their lives, who birthed this young man, himself now a father of three beautiful dauthgers, in a tree in the mountains while their own governmnet carried out genocide against their people.....life in the meek yet joyful way his daughter and i practiced our second language together while the sun set behind the rolling hills....life in talking for hours in spanish yet feeling like no time has passed at all....life in three little brothers i see at the university trying to sell small packages of nuts and asking if you'd like your shoes shined....life in the way the older one puts his arm around the younger ones as they walk from building to building....life in feeling connected here and knowing that after a year in guatemala, i am excited to be staying for another, even in the midst of all this life that can be ugly and complicated and dangerous and scary and hurtful but that can also be so very vibrant and interesting and beautfiul and rewarding....if only we are able to step outside of what is comfortable and famililar, like that big ol' box of kraft dinner that i regretfully polished off. all by myself. haha.
friends, i hope that you are experiencing life in new and vibrant ways this spring season, even if it takes passing through some ugly and uncomfortable places first.