January 24, 2013

Checking in with reality

Comfortable. That's how I feel in my concrete apartment with a tin roof and neighboring rats that like to peek in on me. I feel comfortable with my host mom who gives me remedies while I've been sick this past month. Comfortable enough to let her give me a full body massage and drop bitter medicine down my throat without asking for either one. I feel the same about my town and the people I work with. I feel good and safe and straight up comfy with my life here in Guatemala.
Then, out of all the comfort comes an eruption sending me back to reality. Like the lynching that happened in my friends town not too far away from where I live. A brutal attack on two young men who stole money from a house. Apparently the quantity was equivalent to around $50 which was enough for the town to take action and take the lives of these two delinquents by beating one to death and setting the other on fire, drenching him in gasoline.
A picture from the newspaper- Prensa Libre.  Different lynching from the one mentioned above. 

It isn't uncommon to hear about lynching here, it is actually very common. Lynching a person is usually a way to gain justice when a town has lost faith in the local police. They lynch for a variety of things, usually stealing, but also for murder and other crimes that the locals feel unjust. I have a friend who honks his horn continuously while driving on a certain road near my town, to give off a sort of warning that a car is coming. A preventative measure to keep any dogs or children from running into the street. I found it strange the first time I rode with him- I thought he had some type of compulsive disorder- so I asked why he was honking his horn obsessively and he bluntly explained "here, they lynch people." Simple as that, the honking continues, keeping the children out of unintended harm and us away from a lynching mob.

It's that type of thing that I try to forget about after becoming so adjusted to the life here in Guatemala. I convince myself and try to shove down those fears of danger or extreme discomfort.  While I was riding on a bus recently with bullet holes in the windows and a pilot with a death wish, I had to tell myself that everything was going to be fine. Even though my mind and body were tensed up with fear, thinking that the next curve was going to be my last, I had to say- Sasha, you're going to be A-OK.
And I was.
There was not a shoot-out to add additional bullet holes to the buses elaborate facade, nor did the bus flip over. But on that 2 hours bus ride of pure fear, with images out of a flipped over bus passing through my head, I was trapped in limbo between reality and manifestation. Trying to convince myself exactly what the reality of the situation was proved to be extremely hard, especially without knowing which fate I had in store.

Of course there is nothing I can do to make communities stop their lynching habits nor can I change bus culture- it is something I will deal with until my time is done here. When one has to live with these type of incidences and dangerous circumstances on a day by day it becomes the norm and not something that falls out of the ordinary. At least that's what I tell myself, that's what everyone who has transplanted themselves in Guatemala has to tell themselves.

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