What do you do for your last day in Guatemala after you've been here for almost seven months?
Hopefully eat freshly-made, piping hot tortillas and black refried beans, and maybe fried platanos and ripe sweet mango served peeled and sliced and bagged for you on the street. Or ride a chicken bus just for fun. And sing along to "Te Amo" by Makano, loud and heart-felt and slightly out-of-tune. Smile at one of the curious children that approach you because you are a gringo and look and sound different from them. And probably buy some sort of woven handicraft.
I remember when I circled March 17th on the little calendar I have in my Spanish notebook, and counted the weeks until it came. It felt like an eternity at times. But then it came and went. And I didn't leave that day; my ticket was extended. I was not ready for the adventure to be over.
But now I leave May 1st. Tomorrow. And there will be no more extensions.
So it's my last day in Guatemala and all I've done so far today is have a job interview via Skype for a job back home. My future is there now, and part of me is ready, anxious for it to start, wanting to know what happens next in the story. And the other part of me is a little heart-broken to be leaving.
As I have been traveling I have met and encountered people along the way, some of whom with I exchanged email addresses, some of whom became my facebook friends. Part of traveling is forming relationships that exist for the moment, and you are thankful for them for that moment, and the experienced shared is valuable, but there doesn't necessarily have to be a future.
But my home-base since last September has been here in Guatemala City, with "Team Oxford" (Oxford Language Center) and the house of Bryant, Joe and Maria. It has been my refuge between long bus rides. It is where I have shared meals and computers and jokes and morning yoga sessions and lazy Sunday afternoons watching movies. . . I was at the Christmas party, the bowling party, the poker party, the dance party, and the baptism of the first Oxford baby, Nicholas. Maria and I were the consistent fans at the Monday night soccer matches. I threw Remy's stick for him to fetch more times than I can count.
So last night, as we finished dinner (a scruptious dinner which I prepared, by the way), Hergil looked at me and said, "Have we really only known you since last September?"
It feels a lot longer to me, too. But now their lives will go on without me, and mine without them. So I am trying to define what these friendships mean to me as I pack my bags and prepare to go.
Because I can say I'll be back, but by then their lives will have changed and so will mine.
I guess that is what is so sad about good-byes.