I wouldn’t call myself superstitious, because that’s bad luck. I don’t walk under ladders because it’s just not smart. If I spill the salt, I throw a dash over my left shoulder for good measure. I would never open an umbrella inside of the house. If I run a yellow light, then I tap the interior ceiling of the car followed by the dashboard, then the ceiling again to erase any bad juju. Most of all, I’ve always been someone who tends to believe in “signs”. Good ones and bad ones.
On my last night of teaching in Casco Viejo, five of my adorable students (all girls between 7-12 years old) threw me a going away party with streamers and pizza and homemade cookies and showered me with gifts, and of course, I was touched by their thoughtfulness and sad to say goodbye. At the end of the party, I was instructed by eldest girl to pick a balloon (as was everyone else) and with a sharpie write a special wish on my balloon so that we could all go outside into the drizzly, humid Panama night and release our balloons into the sky in order for our wishes to come true. I held my green balloon and gave a long thought.
Normally, I would never share this with you because then my wish may not come true, but for the sake of this story, my wish was: I hope that Juan, Joaquin and I are all happy & healthy in Guatemala. We then paraded outside and on the count of three, we all released our balloons with a cheer. An array of colors shot into the air, a swirl of wishes written in Spanish, English and French all became fading dots in the dark blue sky. Except for mine. My green balloon, literally went sideways, then dipped down, then got caught in a plant. We all stared as my sad, lazy balloon just sat there limp. Quickly, as if they sensed my growing anxiety over this absurd “sign” of times to come, the girls ran to retrieve my balloon. “We have to go up to the roof!” they exclaimed, eager, wishful thinking in their eyes. We went to the roof. I released my balloon yet again only to watch it slowly climb up a foot, then teeter in space, as if the fateful Balloon Wish Gods were deciding what to do. “Up! Up! Up! Up!” the girls were chanting with all of their hearts. I stood biting my lip and laughing in spite of myself. And then, just like that, my balloon gave up and at an impressive speed, took a nosedive straight for the ocean. Nobody said a word at first. One girl appeared quickly with another balloon and pen and told me to make the same wish quickly, while another girl explained totally matter-of-fact that “it’s ok because your balloon will explode in the ocean and your wish will come true anyway.” Reluctantly, I used the squeaky Sharpie again to write: I wish that my first wish comes true. Luckily, that second wish balloon took off and was never seen again thus rendering my first wish granted, I think. But, I still had a pestering feeling that this was not a good sign…or maybe it was?
Joaquin, as many of you already know, was projectile vomiting for 3 straight nights leading up to our departure. But, on our last night with the help of a teaspoon of medicine, he slept solid and hasn’t thrown up since.
The morning of our move, just when we really needed to make our final push to clean up and move out, the electricity (and consequently the water) was shut off in Casco due to construction. But, a best friend had let me know the day before that this was scheduled so I planned accordingly which made it a lot easier.
When we arrived at the airport with our 3 suitcases, 2 duffle bags, giant box, stroller, car seat, 2 laptops, diaper bag, purse, enormous backpack, and baby, I realized I had left my wallet and sunglasses in the top dresser drawer of my closet at home. But, a friend who was luckily able to get my things, jumped in a taxi and delivered my wallet and sunglasses straight to my hands just before we walked through security.
Once we landed in Guatemala, we filled our old Range Rover (which belongs to Juan’s family) until we literally couldn’t’ fit another thing in it and headed off for Antigua which is about a 50 minute drive from Guatemala City. 12 minutes into that drive, we ran out of gas. But, with the help of a family friend, we were back on the road to our new home within an hour.
When we arrived to Antigua that first night, it was later and darker than we had planned (due to the gas situation) and we got lost. But, finally we found our new home which I had never seen and I felt like a kid on Christmas day – that’s how beautiful it is to me.
Our credit cards and access to money has been blocked twice. But, with the beauty of 1-800 numbers they’ve been reactivated quickly.
We have spent an estimated 9 combined hours in traffic. But, Joaquin has slept through a lot of it and Juan and I get to chat about life.
I had a meltdown and sobfest, feeling-sorry-for-myself session in the parking lot of the equivalent of Bed, Bath and Beyond when I realized I bought the wrong kind of cutting board. But, I walked back inside and returned it no questions asked. Uh, I was obviously exhausted and felt much better after a nap.
In the peak of Guatemala City gridlock at 6pm on a Friday, our other family car (an old BMW) which was also packed to the ceiling with bags, overheated until the engine exploded while we were sitting at a full stop INSIDE a tunnel. But, with the help of two strangers who helped push the car, a traffic control man who towed us to a nearby gas station, and the rescue of a family friend, we were strapping Joaquin’s carseat into an old pick up, me straddling the stick shift covered in bags, while Juan drove us home, only a few hours later.
As one who has started a blog about living abroad, I have been really tested these last two weeks to practice what I preach. I have been given my fair share of “signs” that would have normally sent me running. And yet, with just a little extra patience and frankly no choice in the matter but to suck it up, I think I can now safely say that every sign has two sides. Although it’s always easy to focus on the negative, it’s essential in times like this to focus on the positive. It’s just all a matter of perspective. And, at the risk of sounding annoying or cliché, I am SO lucky for what I have: for my family, for this adventure, for the fact that I can even share all this hilariousness with people. I’m grateful to even have a car that runs out of gas, you know what I mean?
So if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last two weeks, it’s that signs and superstitions are all about how I choose to look at them. Take my incredible son Joaquin for example, he was born on Friday the 13th and he’s about as good as it gets.