Tag Archives: viaje a Guatemala

to the north

to the north

The breeze was whipping past my face as I sped near the edge of a cliff, traveling parallel but closer and closer all the time.  I was standing on the back of a truck, holding on tightly, staring out to the scenery flashing by.  Finally I was right at the edge, because this is what I came for, the glimpse over the edge…I looked down and there was no guardrail at all, just the edge of the road, a strip of dirt, and then nothingness until far down I could see a thick cushion of treetops, dappled by sunlight.  There was the white facade of a church peeping out of the trees, along with glimpses of a few other building from the town.  Lifting my eyes up, I could see the greenness turn deep blue as my vision extended to the far hills and mountains.  Then I decided I’d rather see this from behind some sort of guardrail, so I looked for even a small one that I could stand behind.  There was a small one, of sorts, but we were traveling so quickly past it.  (and that’s how you can tell it’s Central America,  few guardrails!)

Now I noticed a beautiful sound, a song that I recognized, playing past the rush of the wind.  I started humming along with it, as I looked down at the treetops and breathed in the clean fresh mountain air.  The cliffs and mountains were on my right, but  now we were turning left and I could see some ruined buildings.  I knew it was a part of Antigua.  There were all sorts of old ruined cathedrals and bits of old walls and columns.  I wanted to look at them all, but we were approaching so quickly that my eyes fixed on one that was painted bright pink, and I gazed as we drove past at golden lions intertwined among the black wooden railing on the window boxes.  I dearly wanted to see the other ruins and was determined to come back with my camera….

And then Henry said, “Good-bye, I’ll give you a call later”….and the music in my dream tapered off and the ruins and mountains melted into the daylight behind the curtains in our room as he kissed me goodbye.

Yes, that was what I was dreaming about 2 hours ago.  If you know me, you know that I have very vivid dreams, and remember a lot of them (too many, my Mom would say!)  I can hear and taste and smell in my dreams!  I dream in both English and Spanish.  And yes, Guatemala is my favorite place to dream about….it’s probably where 90% of my dreams take place, go figure.

A few minutes later, I “happened” to pick up a book I’ve been reading, and read this quote:

“Oh hurrah!” said Shasta.  “Then we’ll go north. I’ve been longing to go to the north all my life.” –THE HORSE AND HIS BOY, CHAPTER I, “HOW SHASTA SET OUT ON HIS TRAVELS”

And then after some more quotes from that book, where the boy Shasta is setting off on an adventure to the North with Bree the talking horse, this book continues on:

For while Shasta, like Reepicheep, was motivated by desire, his was a desire of a very different kind.  In part, it was nothing more than a vague sense of not belonging, of being a stranger in the only place he’d ever been able to call home.  But it went far beyond this.  For reasons he didn’t comprehend and couldn’t have explained, Shasta was consumed with a deep, almost inarticulate desire to go north.

“So is there in us a world of love to somewhat,” wrote C.S. Lewis in Surprised by Joy (quoting seventeenth-century English poet Thomas Traherne), “thought we know not what in the world it should be.”  This is Shasta’s story in a nutshell.  He was a victim of what the Germans call Sehnsucht: an ardent yearning after a nameless, indefinable object.  Lewis referred to it as a “lifelong nostalgia—-”  “our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside.”

This for sure stuck a chord in me.  I know that I do long for Guatemala, but really, I know it’s deeper even than that.  Farther on in this chapter the authors add:

Have you ever felt that bittersweet pang, that stab of joy, that soul-piercing arrow of heartbreaking loveliness and longing that, for Lewis and Shasta, was “shot from the North”?  It comes to each of us in a different way.  We encounter it in the light of a red gold sunset, the melancholy of a misty seascape, the cold gleam of stars among bare branches on a winter’s night; in “the smell of a bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of Kubla Khan, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.”

Wherever we meet it, it confronts us with inescapable evidence that we, like Jack and Shasta and the Old Testament patriarchs, are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13), exiles in a foreign land, hoping to discover a way back home.

Put yourself in Shasta’s place.  You’re sitting on the seashore, absently mending the nets, gazing off longingly toward the north.  Do you sense the undertow of nagging restlessness?  Can you relate to the undefined feelings of homesickness, the ache of unspoken discontent?  If you can, you may begin to have some idea of what the Bible means when it says that God “has put eternity in [our] hearts”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

The implications are well worth pondering.

REFLECTION:  We were meant for bigger and better things.

And so ends the chapter called “NARNIA AND THE NORTH” in the book Finding God in the Land of Narnia by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware, published by SALTRIVER, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2005.  I have really been enjoying reading this book and what I read this morning really complimented what I experienced in my dream today.  I recommend it for every Narnia fan!!  It’s something to think about today….

I wanted to include some photos of Guatemala that remind me a bit of my dream, so I found these on my friend Sam Ovalle’s facebook page and grabbed some of the ones of his climb of the Pacaya Volcano in 2000.  (Thanks for permission Chrissy!! 🙂scene from pacaya volcano photographed by Sam Ovallescene from pacaya volcano photographed by Sam Ovalle pacaya volcano photographed by Sam Ovalle scene from pacaya volcano photographed by Sam Ovalle  volcano photographed by Sam Ovalle scene from pacaya volcano photographed by Sam Ovallevolcanos of Guatemala photographed by Sam Ovalle

totally crazy roadtrip tow truck trip


Posting about road trips yesterday helped me recall a really fun road trip story.  Totally one worth remembering (and posting about 🙂 ).

This story ends in a truly magical moment.  But first, the setup:

The story begins at a beach, a lovely hot beach with black sand on the Pacific coast of Guatemala.  It was just after the Christmas rush and we were vacationing there with many of our dear relatives.  After 3 days of sun and seafood, it was time to drive back up to the capital city.  We packed ourselves into 2 vehicles and started the drive back in the afternoon.  On the way, we came upon a big detour, complete with traffic jams and police vehicles.  Apparently there had been a huge explosion at a plant down the road aways, and traffic was now being directed up the “old road to the capital”.

The story:  At this point we started climbing a bit on the winding road.  We passed a car that was stopped (they had stopped in front of a farm and were apparently going up the driveway to get help) and Henry (who grew up in this country) said “Wow, this is sure a bad spot to have car trouble, especially when it’s getting dark!!”  I really really wished that he hadn’t said that.  A strange uneasiness gripped me.  I kid you not, ten minutes later our vehicle stalled and died.  Totally dead.  And it was getting dark.

We had been driving behind the other vehicle, so I fumbled around to find one of various cell phones to call Henry’s dad ahead of us to let him know that we were stopped.  The car was on an incline, but we choked right in front of the entrance to a farm or estate, so we were able to roll off the road a bit (no shoulders on this narrow, two way road).  Henry said that usually this was a very lonely road, with a bad reputation for thieves and hijackings.  Today there was a lot of traffic because of the detour.  I felt so much better…

And then, to really make me feel really panicky, the police show up.  I scramble to call and let Henry’s dad know that.  You may not understand the panic that you can feel about having the police show up unless you are a criminal or you have driven in Latin America.  Let’s just say it’s nothing like the feeling I get when I see the Royal Canadian Mounted Police…..I’m afraid that corruption is rampant in Central/South America…

But wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles….they helped us out!!  I can’t remember the technical details of what was wrong with the vehicle, but it was NOT starting again and there was nothing we could do, so the friendly police officers hitched our vehicle to their pickup. (notice how close the speeding traffic was to us).   Notice in this next photo how one officer helped with the hitching, and the other stood guard on the other side of the road with a large gun.They could only give us a tow to a more level spot that was off the road, where we could wait for a tow truck.  My sister-in-law was taking all the photos, since the kids and I were not supposed to get out of the car….so no one would see the “foreigners”.Henry’s parents said that they had never seen police be so very helpful before.  Truly it was a miracle.

Here we are being pulled up the hill.

The climax:  The helpful policemen left us infront of a closed (abandoned??) shop (or something) on a rather lonely-looking piece of highway.  There was still traffic whizzing by once in a while, but it was getting really dark, and we had to wait for a tow truck to come from Antigua.  So we waited.  Darkness fell quickly.  All sorts of scary thoughts danced around in my head.  Really, you can’t understand unless you’ve been there!!  And the thing I’ll never forget is seeing my mother-in-law sitting out in the twilight with some large stones in her hands, singing and keeping watch over us!

There was a heart-stopping moment after we had been waiting in the dark for (almost) hours, when a black vehicle pulled into the “shoulder” in front of us.  As someone mentioned later, if they had wanted to help, they would’ve slowed beside us, rolled down the window and asked if we needed help.  It looked very suspicious…but who knows why, they paused, then drove off.

Finally finally the tow truck appeared.  (Did I mention that I was kept busy trying to keep 4 tired, sweaty, hungry kids from beating each other up inside the car this whole time?  We scrounged around and found some chocolate covered cookies to eat and some chip crumbs.)  And now for…..

The big excitement:  We had to RIDE ON THE TOW TRUCK!!  There was no where else to put everyone.  So the man said, “We’re really not supposed to do this…but oh well, hold on!”  I thought we’d be towed by the front wheels, but much to my surprise….We were being carried!  That’s me waving out the window!My other sister-in-law came up to my window and said “Is this enough excitement for you, Denna??!”I replied that I hadn’t been asking for excitement, I had just been pointing out that my life in Canada was pretty boring, not like life in Guatemala.  Really, it wasn’t my fault, I hadn’t been asking for it!!

Ready to roll!

We were off!!  Something I knew we’d never get to do in Canada: riding in our vehicle on top of a tow truck!! Only in Latin America!  What a bouncy ride!

I felt a bit bad later, when I found out how much everyone in the other vehicle worried about our safety when they saw how much we were jiggling around!  But we….had a blast!!

The magical moment:  We opened the sunroof and blasted the music as we looked up at the stars!  We were listening to the album “All things Bright and Beautiful” by Owl City….which turned out to be our theme music for our whole trip to Guatemala (a gift from our cousins in Texas on the way down).  We all enjoyed it, from the 5 year old, to the thirty-something and the forty-something year old…

As the CD player blasted out “Galaxies” Henry and I  leaned our heads back and watched the stars swirl around, as we held hands and listened to the kids singing along…it was a truly magical moment.

And it was a very bouncy, long ride!!  We had to drive right through Antigua, which has all cobblestone streets, so that was really really bouncy! And by that point, I had to go to the bathroom really really badly.  And Diego’s ear had begun to ache again (ear infection).  When we stopped at a gas station, we all hunkered down inside the car on top of the tow truck so no one would see that we were in there!  It was fun to drive through Guatemala city with all the lights and signage flashing past as we jolted along.  Eventually we stopped and our brother-in-law picked us up and took us to an aunt’s house, where we ended the night with pizza and cake!

I tried to take some photos from the back of the tow truck, but none of them turned out, and then my camera battery died.  I just have to imagine that moment of seeing thousands of stars and of feeling the earth spin (as we wound around corners), and then seeing old buildings and ancient ruins as we jerked down the cobblestone streets.  Not to mention the tight squeeze in those narrow roads as highly decorated buses scraped by us!  Ahh…what a moment!

Here’s a video of one of the songs that we were belting out as we bounced along….and it gives a good impression of our crazy road trip on the back of a tow truck!! enjoy, as I remember….

The video also goes along with my road trip post from yesterday….and yes! that’s the DeLorean from Back to the Future!