Monday, January 4, 2010

Day Trip

We left our sandy little Enclave early this morning to take a long bus ride to a pretty impressive historic site. It turns out that the forecast was for rain (don't know if it really did), so perhaps it was a fortuitous departure.

Whatever the reason, we rode and rode, and then walked and walked, and listened to our very earnest and enthusiastic Mayan guide tell us all about the significance of just about everything we encountered. I kid you not, you could spend a couple of weeks inside this place and not see everything. It's incredible.

We were treated to lessons in the Mayan language, the reason for the incredible echo capabilities, all of the symbolism of jaguars, eagles, serpents and other animals. "The missionaries thought we were savages," he said, "But look what we created."

On the bus were vacationers from all over the world, speaking all manner of languages. Our guide stuck to Spanish and English, and I marvelled. We struck up a conversation with a couple from London. I even ended up writing two pages of recommendations for sites they should see, if they ever make it to Minnesota, or to the Southwest. They are old-movie aficionados, and asked both of us if we were stranded on a desert island, what three movies would we bring? (His answers were: Twelve Angry Men, Sparticus, and West Side Story.) Not a bad question.

There are times when I am in a new place, and I feel a certain kinship. Paris was like that. Even not knowing the language, I felt envious, like this was the kind of place that I could stay -- if only I knew how. And there are places that, even while enjoying the time I spend there, I am so aware that I am a stranger. This place is like that. I sit here in the warm weather, and I think, 'What kind of person spends their vacations this way?' and then I reply to myself, almost scolding, 'Well, you are spending your vacation this way, aren't you?' But it doesn't quite feel like me.

When I was about eight years old, I was visiting my grandparents in southwestern Minnesota. The farm and the small town was like a second home to me; my grandpa liked to take these meandering "drives" around the countryside, although it all seemed pretty familiar; we were going to the same places every day. Then one afternoon, he turned south and drove for a few miles. He turned to me in a moment, and said, "We're in Iowa, now."

I thought something must be wrong. Didn't we need passports to go to Iowa? Would they come and arrest us?

"Go back! Go back!" I commanded, with absolutely no sense of adventure. And he did.

In a day or so, we'll go back, and again be an exile in a familiar land, where I seem to know the language, and think I am at home. But I'm not at home, not really, not there. It's true, there are things that comfort me, and things that remind me of my True Home, and there are other things that lull me into complacency.

So it is that there are always two voices inside me, and one says: "Go back! Go back!" and the other says, "Forge ahead!" And it seems to me that at the same time, both of these voices are mistaken -- and both of them are right.
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