Saturday, January 8, 2011

Baile, baile.

I’m sure you have all, as I have, finished nurturing your holiday goma (hangover). That exhausted, yet satisfied feeling that follows the year’s end frenzy of festivities. My recovery took a record-long five days. I blame the lengthy recuperation on my necessity to process all that I experienced in 2010. It was a whirlwind year.

In work, progress was slow, but time was well spent. I smiled more and laughed more (even if I didn’t understand all the jokes).

In experience, I learned to listen. Really listen. It took patience to silence the interjecting voice in my head that would talk over whoever I was conversing with. I’ve stopped always thinking about what I want to say next, and instead, have started focusing on what other people are saying.

In friends and family, I expanded both. Made new lifelong friends while cultivating a deeper appreciation for the people already in my life.

In life, I have been humbled. Spending some of my richest moments with some of the poorest people in the world.

All of this reflection led nicely into some forethought.

Yesterday, I picked up the Diario (newspaper) and read my horoscope (the only thing worth reading in that paper) and it told me that this year was a year of new beginnings for Virgos. It specifically said, “pick up and move.” Since I have no intention of leaving Guatemala just yet, I decided to interpret “move” loosely as “dance.” I chose this interpretation because recently I realized just how much I love dancing.

On two occasions I was gifted the opportunity to dance with my family this holiday season. My mom + dad + Nate + Colleen - Danica (we missed you Dani) came down to visit Guatemala for 10 days between Christmas and New Years. On the day they arrived, Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), Casas Viejas had a town baile (dance). I usually shy away from the town dances after realizing it is hard to make up good excuses as to why I can’t dance with sweaty drunk guys I don’t know ("I'm tired" doesn't work), and even harder to make up excuses as to why I can’t dance with guys toting pistols. But, on Christmas Eve, I was excited to enter the baile. I found protection in our little gringo bubble as we shuffled into the brick wall lined basketball court in the center of town. The scene was what I was used to. Clean shaven guys in Holister tees and girls in skinny jeans and bright colored tops with matching sparkly eyeshadow crowded the court. About 25 couples danced under the night sky, swerving in and out of the black stands that propped up the strobing club lights. Another 100 people were standing around the edge of the court spectating while making mental notes as to who was dancing with whom. And finally, a handful of kids were zigzagging in and out of dancers and onlookers while waiving firecrackers. Our group of six (Fernando accompanied us) stood with the spectators until my dad asked me to dance. This triggered the entire gringo gang to collectively test our skills on the dance floor. My dad, shamelessly got down with his signature moves which I can only describe as being 50% twist 30% conga line 18% side step 2% free-style. Nate let the music move him (without the aid of liquid courage). Colleen grooved to the music probably thinking, “Oh god, is this how they are going to dance at my wedding reception?” But, my favorite was watching my mom. The smile on her face was that of perfect contentment. Pure bliss. The kind of smile that exudes, “In this moment nothing matters.” She was the happiest I have ever seen her. I watched her glide on her toes, wondered to which serene place the movement had transported her and wanted to meet her there. That is the power of dance.

Our second dance-off occurred on another eve, New Year’s Eve. We had an amazing dinner at Meson Panza Verde. The feast of duck in chocolate sauce, lobster tail, beef filet and salmon was accompanied by the sounds of a spicy Cuban trio. The band was lead by the guitar virtuoso Denis whose magical plucking fingers invited us to the dance floor. We were the first to venture to the empty space in front of the band. We danced, laughed and made fools of ourselves, but in our uninhibited and carefree movement, we were the envy of the entire restaurant. Soon our cheer infected the other diners, and they too were moved to join us in dance.

So, yes, Diario, I will pick up and move this year. I’ll move, and shake, and shimmy, and twirl, and tap, and pop, and twist just like my dad. Well, maybe not exactly like my dad.


  1. Thanks for the great time! Colleen and I had a blast seeing you in your element and I have grown a greater appreciation for the great work you are doing with the people of Casas Viejas. Spending time there reminded me that the most valuable currency in the world is family and friends and time spent together.

  2. Harding couldn't have said it better! Thanks for a fantastic trip that will never be forgotten!

    Side note...I love that the family loves to dance! The wedding is going to be one big dance party!!