“I see [Lake Atitlan] in my dreams,” says my homestay brother Iuan (Ivan). At this moment I realize the opportunities I am exposed to while on this Dragons trip.
As I sit around the table with my homestay family for dinner I pose a question to Bernabe, my Dad; “What is your favorite place in Guatemala?” As soon as I say this I see Flor, my mother, Carolina, my sister, and Iuan, my brother, look to Bernabe and then at the floor. I would soon come to realize this is because Bernabe was the only one in the family to have traveled to other cities outside of Pachaj.
To answer my question he starts to think. He comes up with Lake Atitlan being his favorite spot. I can relate to him being that I just came from the Lake and thought it was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. As he describes other places he has been and places his father went, I can see his eyes light up. I can see he loves his country and the places it offers. He tells me his dream is to visit the ancient Maya ruins at Tikal. I again relate because my wish is to see any ancient Maya ruins here in Guatemala.
When Bernabe is done talking Iuan immediately says his favorite place is Lake Atitlan. Bernabe turns to him and questions his response saying, “But you’ve never been there.” Iuan responds, “I see it in my dreams,” while giving me a sly smile. It is at this moment I realize the Guatemalan reality and understand while this country offers so many beautiful places to see many people don’t have the means to explore it.
Iuan’s sly smile and conviction of which he said Atitlan was his favorite place makes me sad yet grateful to be able to explore my country and the many different cultures, climates, and places it houses. I feel this sadness and gratefulness I felt carries into how I feel coming back and gaining a deeper understanding of this country’s history. I am sad of what has transpired here and of the many injustices my Maya people have had to face, but I am grateful to my birth mother who sought out a better life for me in the States.
As I continue my journey here in Guatemala with Dragons I keep an open mind, be a sponge for knowledge, and remember what Santiaga, the woman who owns the hotel we are currently staying at in Todos Santos said, “Education is our second mother.”