Crossing Guatemala

     It's one of the inevitable facts of life that when one gets married, things start changing big time. In my case, those changes were definitely influenced by many factors. Not only was I now responsible for the care of my new wife, but also my instant family of three children. Added to that were my wife's two sisters and a brother, and also the fiancée of the younger sister. Living as tourists in a foreign country didn't make things any easier. But we had to face the situation head-on. We had come too far to give up now.

     Nine days prior to our wedding, we received news that guaranteed there would be some light at the end of the tunnel - I had a job offer. The American School in San Salvador was ready to make me a member of their staff! A job teaching mathematics was just what the doctor ordered to lift my spirits immensely. This would provide me with the financial base to take care of everybody. Finally we could leave our establo and have a decent house to live in. So the next thing was to pack up our belongings and go - me to a new land, my family to their home.

     Before we could load up and hit the road, we had to prepare our "boat". Yes, the van chose this time to get sick again. In the six years I had used it so far, it had given me more than a fair share of trouble. Fortunately for us, mechanics were found who could repair it at a moment's notice.

     On July 5, we loaded up the van with all our worldly goods, and we set off on our little odyssey. Talk about sardines packed in a can! (Gloria's older sister didn't go with us though.) After crossing the customs check point at the Guatemalan border what seemed successfully, we continued happily on our way. Cheerful as a bunch of birds.

     Soon we arrived at another check point a few miles down the highway. "Where is your guard?" they asked. "What guard?" we said. "Sorry, we can't let you continue any further until you get a government security agent to go along with you." So they directed us to go back a ways where the government had an office where agents were assigned to accompany tourists traveling the public highways. There was a period of civil unrest at that time through much of Central America, not just Guatemala or El Salvador.

     Anyway a man, named Francisco Alemán Roquel, was promptly assigned to our case, and we were on our way once again. I tell you, it's an interesting sensation to be riding across a foreign country, sitting between one's driver (Nelson) and a uniformed officer of the law in the passenger seat with his rifle in his hands. It calls to mind all the cowboy movies I'd seen where some man was "riding shotgun" on a Wells Fargo stagecoach, brandishing a Winchester rifle. Now there's romance for you.

     Suffice it to say, we never ran across any hold-up men with masks on throughout the trip. We made it to Guatemala City late in the afternoon & decided to spend the night there before finishing the journey the following day. We found a nice hotel for ourselves, while the agent went off on his own elsewhere, promising to return the next morning.

     The next day all went well. When we reached the border with El Salvador, we said "adios" to our protector, and crossed over into what has been my home ever since those initial, romantic days. This was, in effect, our "honeymoon trip", one that is undoubtedly rather unique. Looking back now from the vantage point of more than two decades, I think I know how Dorothy must have felt as she emerged from her house after the tornado placed it in the mythical land of Oz. Without a doubt, I was not in Kansas anymore either.

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