Friday, January 27, 2006

Desde la Ciudad de Guatemala

January 16, 2006

Monday morning at 5:30 we hop in a taxi, decide the meter would be more economical than the $45 flat rate, and race off to JFK for our Taca flight to Guatemala City. Four blocks in our driver stops abruptly and hustles his way into a conversation with a man and his luggage heading to La Guardia. Thirty-dollars he hollers. Get in, get in! My 5:30 a.m. mood takes over and I lean over to tell him my opinion. This is my last taxi ride in the US, my last bit of private straightforward service. We pay for your time and gas and you bring us where we want to go. Easy. As I saw the quality yellow-cab service razed before my eyes I knew the trip had begun.

For those that might not know I am here in Guatemala for the next nine months working for ArtCorps, a program dedicated to changing the world through arts communication. Currently the three other artists (two of whom will work in Guatemala and one in El Salvador) and I are hanging out in Guatemala City, getting a feel for the place, for each other, and for our plans. I will be working with a youth group, Jóvenes en la Misión (JEM), which is a project under the wings of the World Conservation Union, a large international environmental organization. Ian and I will be living in San Pablo, a small mountain village of about 400 that sits a half hour’s walk from the closest marketplace/city and close to the Mexican border.

Cristian, a 23-year-old coordinator of the youth group, has been communicating with me since early November. His emails have been a support, an uplifting reminder of why I want to do ArtCorps—to give individual and collective voices to others through the power of making art. He is exactly what I expected, hesitant yet eager. He has hope and tells me that the most notable characteristic of the community is that it is visionary. What a difference their excitement makes in my own thinking. Blanca Estela—my local program coordinator here in Guatemala City—tells me that they are thrilled about my arrival and can’t wait to show me around the mountains and bring me to meet the jóvenes, all in different villages.

On fears: I stared off at the beige-colored wall in the lobby of the temp agency back in November and pondered my future together with the jóvenes. But things are always more perfect in the ideal circumstances of my daydreams. I expect it to be difficult. I am concerned I won’t be able to communicate the hidden subtleties that art demands and all will be lost from the beginning. My relationship with Spanish is still a budding one, learning to take root, and I must recognize that the first month will be challenging. I must find other ways to communicate the intricacies of our lives, by being more direct, or by using silence to guide us. But just by speaking some today and listening I am only concerned with my own expression, and that will come. My tongue jumps over words and skips to the point, leaving everyone lost and my idea incoherent. The other artists are all older and have lots of experience doing this kind of thing. I am the young married one—they must think I was too fearful to come by myself so I tied the knot for security reasons. Really, I look forward to learning more about them and sharing strategies and techniques. As one told us about the racism workshops and ancestral theater pieces she recently developed, I saw that I have so much to learn. So currently I am observing, feeling my way, and am confident, strong, and so proud of myself for hopping that Taca flight and coming down here.


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