It was the year 2001 and my youngest child was going to University. The nest would be empty. A mid-life crisis was pretty well compulsory; the concept was grasped by me with both hands.
I gave up my job, rented my house, bought myself a 60 litre ruck sack and away I went… to Guatemala.
Kelty, the God and Leader of previous adventure walks, agreed to take us somewhere in Central or South America and there I would remain on my own after the walk. He chose Guatemala.
WHAT I DIDN'T KNOW:
I knew absolutely nothing about Guatemala: not Asturias (Nobel Prize winning poet, diplomat, novelist, playwright & journalist) nor the bloody Civil War (1960-1996); I had not met a worry doll (to get rid of your worries) and I knew not about the United Fruit Company (baddies) nor the geographical location (borders on Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize) and finally the towering presence of majestic volcanoes hit me slap in the face. It was a clean slate and total ignorance of the country prevailed.
I spoke bad Spanish gained from working in a fisherman’s bar in Spain when I was 19. I could say things like, “cheers! Good luck with your sex life!" I was in possession of an A level with a shamefully low grade.
After very tearful goodbyes to my walking buddies I took a good long look at myself in the mirror. “What in God’s name have you got yourself in to now?” asked I to me.
The following months saw me installed in a roof top flat. Sink on the roof, tiny shower that gave me an electric shock every time I accidentally touched the spout and a view to die for of the volcanoes.
I worked in the mornings in Obras Sociales Hermano Pedro - a hospital for disabled orphans amongst other things. The nurses were mean to me. These were my duties: The most disabled were in a jumble in a sort of cage. I went in there with toothbrushes and brushed all their teeth. I was very frightened of them initially. Then the more abled ones were attached with a rope to the pillars of the patio where they could see what was going on and the others were put in wheel chairs and dotted around the patio. Then the cots were cleaned up and after that I was free to play with them. The nurses were mean to me because they were almost as poor as these poor children. I bought them a birthday cake on my birthday and bought presents for the children which they stole for their children. Compared to a lot of orphanages it was a well run and functional place. I grew to love this place and all the people in it. I was lucky to have found it and I knew it!
In the afternoon I went to the Christian Spanish Academy where I met the marvellous Zorie. She was my teacher for four hours a day, five days a week for two months. Mother of twins, scrabble champion of Central America and we shared a birthday. A new a beautiful soul mate.
Then there was the market where the ladies used large cabbage leaves for sun hats and I would buy handfuls of avocados, mountains of coriander, bags of tomatoes and a multitude of greens that I never quite identified.
Sometimes I had coffee or lunch in this little corner of heaven.
BLESSSED! BLESSED! BLESSED!
Every day that's what I thought.