I think this is going to be my last entry. I’ve been back in the States for over a month, but between visiting Ana and other folks in Portland, Seattle, and New York and hosting my Guadalajaran friend Oscar here for two weeks, this is the first time I’ve actually gotten to to think back over the last 10 months in Mexico and Guatemala. Now that I’m alone, it’s really tempting to try to sum everything up, to take stock. I want to try to figure out what it all meant, how I’ve changed, what I’ve accomplished. Plus, I’m gonna need a pat answer when someone asks me, “So, how was your trip?” And I think I want that answer for myself, too.
But I don’t think things work that way. We don’t experience new things — different as they may be from our past experiences or our routines — in discrete, digestible chunks, ready to be processed and turned into a list of triumphs. Life is less linear, less intentional than that, even in hindsight. Now that I’ve finally got the time and space to think about the last 10 months, I still have a hard time holding the whole thing in my head. It’s the classic participant-observer paradox: you have no fixed point from which to view an experience that changes you profoundly, because you’re moving too. It’s like hopping on a bullet train in a place you’ve never been to in your life, catching wind with your huge grin as you lean out the window and love the ride, and then trying to sit down afterwords and draw a map of the strange country you’ve crossed. There’s no way your map does justice to the actual ride. It’s more like a cliff-notes guide that, if you’re not careful, eventually takes the place of the original novel in your mind.
Maybe it’s best to just think of this trip as a series of moments. Insane moments – “what am I doing here, on top of this very tall Aztec pyramid in the middle of a lightning storm” moments. Self-congratulatory, “here I am with these two Dutch tourists in the middle of the jaguar and snake-filled Guatemalan jungle, bribing these machine-gun-toting security guards to get into the country’s most treasured archeological site at 4am to watch the sun rise from that temple that’s in the first Star Wars!” moments. Moments of self-doubt. Scared moments. And, of course, bored moments (which never make it into the stories I tell my friends, though they’re no less a part of the experience than that crap-my-pants ”is that guy following me?” moment on a dark street in Xela at 4:00am, or the “that’s the most beautiful sunset of my life!” moments on the roof of old apartment building in Guadalajara).
I guess that’s what this blog, and the personal journal I’ve been keeping along side it, are for; a place to go to relive the disparate, discombobulated, juicy collection of moments that, when squashed together, made up the last ten months of my life. My gambit is that that collection, well-preserved, will last a lifetime. I owe it to myself to hang on to them because, ultimately, they’re worth far more than any Cliff Notes version I could come up with. So how was my trip? It’s complicated…