After much deliberation, I have finally succumbed to the idea of writing a blog. Over the past eight years I have kept an extensive collection of travel journal writing to chronicle my far flung adventures with the idea that one day, a distant grandchild whom I never knew would find a series of leather bound journals detailing the emotions, thoughts, stories, adventures, and theories of a relative his parents only barely remember from their own childhood.
I have dedicated the contents of each and every journal to the only woman I have ever loved, whom I had the blessed luck to meet just over 8 years ago. To be precise, I met her exactly 8 years and 13 days prior to posting this. Meeting her just happened to coincide with the first stirring of the ancient nomadic blood flowing through my veins.
There I was, rolling up carpets in my father's store in Antigua, Guatemala having just arrived after a 24 hour rush period of losing (or stolen by my then roommate) passport, a 3-hour dash to Seattle for a replacement, followed by another 3-hour dash to catch my already purchased flight from Portland to Guatemala. I hadn't seen my father in about a year at this point and was looking forward to some quality time with him to discuss my future and career aspirations. I had been working for a large multinational conglomerate known as Bechtel at the time having recently graduated from the University of Idaho with a BS in Civil and Environmental Engineering; and I was not excited about my job and looking for excuses to get out the heck out of dodge.
I had figured out too late in my college education that I didn't really want to spend my life sitting behind a desk in a cubicle; the turning point being the day my manager (Mark) speaking to one of my colleague's repeated a line from the movie Office Space verbatim: "Derrick, hmmm, I'm going to need you to come in on Saturday." A slight turn and mid step; "Oh and probably Sunday too." Imagine Derrick's and my surprise when rolling into his office laughing to ask what he thought of the movie, we received only a blank stare asking "What movie?"
By Sunday, neither Derrick nor I were laughing.
On my flight to Guatemala, I reminisced about my childhood spent traveling through villages of Guatemala with my younger brother walking next to me as our parents perused the beautiful (at that age I thought boring) textiles created by the villagers surrounding lake Atitlan or the coffee center of Coban. Due to irreconcilable differences between my parents, I found myself whisked away from a life of Latin American adventure to McCall, Idaho, a small town of population 2500. My travels stopped there and I didn't see Guatemala again until I was 16 years old right before graduation from high school dragging my younger brother with me against the will of my mother. Thankfully, she forgave me for this and came to understand me better as life continued. I am glad to say that I have good relationships with both parents whom showed me a world that I could venture into without fear and with an open heart.
Although neither would likely admit it, my parents both were impassioned by a love for one another and it influenced my own emotional development. I have always viewed intelligence and emotions as separate fields of consciousness and would be the first to tell you that emotions overrun my intelligence in almost every decision. As such, I ask you to bare with me as I describe to you the most important day of my life.
It was a fortuitous day in Antigua, the sun shining as it always does, the dust of antique Persian carpets filtering through my nostrils, my father seated at a desk talking on the phone with potential clients, and in walked a stunning blonde. From first look I couldn't be certain of her origins nor her age, but was fairly sure she was out of my league. Two hours she spent in the store chatting up a storm with my father, who has always been a charming man, and I could see that she was enthralled and enlivened by the conversation that spanned topics from antiquities to modern Persian culture. Actually, I wasn't even certain if she had noticed me at all as I stared at this extraordinarily beautiful and intelligent woman before me.
My father set me up on a date. As any young 20-something man would tell you, this was embarrassing beyond belief, but even more shocking was her acceptance of the proposition. "I will be back around 7 to grab you for dinner if that works?" I managed to mutter an agreement of some sorts, the details are lost to me at this point as my mind was still stuck in a dizzying state of anger, embarrassment, and excitement all at once.
The moment she stepped out the door I turned on my father asking him what kind of man would set his own son up on a date which cascaded into a lengthy dissertation on the faux pas related to his actions. At the end of the discussion, he simply smiled at me and said "Well fine, just don't go if you don't want to. I just thought it would be good for you to meet and talk with an interesting and intelligent young woman." You can't argue with that logic now can you? That was the question I kept repeating to myself as I strolled across the Plaza Central to make my way down el calle del arco where I literally ran into the blonde. It took me a moment to realize there was a man with her.
Of course she would have a boyfriend, no man in his right mind would let a woman this beautiful and intelligent travel to foreign countries by herself. As it turns out, I was somewhat right in that assessment, except that this man was one of her closest friends who didn't feel comfortable with the idea of her picking up some random guy in Guatemala to bring to dinner with her and her fellow medical student friends.
The night was a whirlwind affair consisting of drinks and dinner at an Arabic restaurant that no longer exists across from the Hotel Casa Santo Domingo. I immediately befriended most of her friends and was glad to have the chance to learn more about her. Together we strolled the corridors of the hotel, which is a 1600s Catholic Convent that suffered much destruction due to earthquakes and has been converted into a hotel/resort. Our conversations seemed to traverse a network of not-so-apparently interconnected topics ending with a kiss, a touch of hand, and a promise to keep in touch.
In a daze I wandered back towards the apartment my father had rented for my visit. The next morning I was on a plane to the Mayan ruins of Tikal. Actually, ruins is probably not the appropriate term to use when describing Tikal, for unlike most civilizations of the Americas, the Mayan were not decimated by war and the majority of this magnificent structures created in Tikal still stand intact today. Only a fraction of the entire city has been uncovered and is the showcase feature in a country that has been dominated by civil unrest and militarized gangs. A few years back I read an interesting book, the title I cannot remember now. Nonetheless, this book has had a dramatic influence on my perception of human impacts on the environment and the durability of the planet as well as the ill-conceived concepts of ancient civilizations and their ability to work/control the natural elements.
In this book, the author purports a theory that the older American civilizations were actually irrigation and farming specialists; in particular he suggests that the Amazonian tribes once controlled the growth of all vegetation along the length of the river. The theory continues to state that the reason know evidence exists of this ability by the civilizations is that the natural world in the Americas is expedient at replenishing itself and if not controlled, will grow wildly. Having been to Tikal and seen the horizon of mountains, all which are actually temples covered in trees, soil and brush lends me to believe this theory. More locally, anyone who has watched the Ivy in Portland knows that it would continue to grow and overtake all the underbrush and deprive the trees of much needed water if it was not controlled religiously.
I spent most of the day running through the temple grounds, playing with tarantulas (with the help of a local guide of course), and climbing the backsides of the temples. This was my second exposure to ruins as an adult, but not my first as a solo traveler. My previous excursion was a family trip to Macchu Picchu consisting of my father, stepmother, younger half-brother and half-sister and my younger brother Omar. Like the Spanish before us, the mist in the mountains of Peru resulted in us walking through the cities remains without knowing not once, but twice before my stepmother watched the mist part and unveil the city below us back where we entered the site.
I eventually returned back to the Pacific Northwest and had to appear for work, but the thoughts of experiences and adventures in Guatemala still lingered in my bones and, of course, my mind was occupied with the beautiful blonde medical student I had become enthralled by. It took me three weeks to contact her, I was nervous, what would I say. It didn't matter as it seems, as e-mails flowed back and forth between us throughout the days until we decided I should meet her in Portland for a weekend in April where she was researching the medical Residency programs.
A year later I had quit my job and moved to Fort Lauderdale where she was attending medical school. Within months we had located an apartment in Portland, Oregon, I had made my first antiques purchasing trip to India, and I had confirmed a new job with KPFF Consulting Engineers and we had both fallen deeply and madly in love with one another. I am purposely holding back the details because you will all have to wait for the movie, that is if some big time producer decides to pick up on a love story that will span the ages and has already spanned distance, medical school, medical residency, multiple cancers, gut-wrenching plane drops, unemployment, business ventures both failed and potentially successful, bipolar family members of different cultures, and fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams.
I would never have imagined the next steps in life and have long since absolved to throw out any long-term or near-term life plans that so many of us are trained to work towards. What I have learned in the past 8 years, is that planning in life is clearly not in my skill set; I am a nomad, a wanderer, an explorer, a godfather, a brother, a husband, and as one elderly woman stated on a plane, a modern day Indiana Jones whose found his holy grail, true love.