Wanna hear a God story?


Panajachel, Lake Atitlan

This story is about a shoe cobbler, a coffee shop, and a boulder.

Back in our hometown of Mill Valley, there is a special shoe repair shop called Tony's, and the cobbler's name is Misak Pirinjian. Misak has been the town's cobbler for over 25 years, and I took my shoes, luggage, wallets, etc. to him for over 12 years. Misak has a helper in his cramped shop, but in all the years I went to him, I had never had a single conversation with his helper, who was usually hidden behind stacks and stacks of shoes. Right before we left, I told Misak about our trip and he mentioned his helper, Brian, had a brother some where down in Central America. I called out to Brian behind the stacks of shoes and asked him where in Central America. He called back, "Guatemala". I said "We are going there. Where in Guatemala?" Pause. He calls back, "Panajachel. Owns a coffee shop." Now, I went to Panajachel for work three years ago and visited a coffee shop called Crossroads Cafe. I met the owner then, who amazingly was from Mill Valley. So I said excitedly to Brian, "I've been there! I think I know your brother! Is his name is Mike?" I hear a, "Uh huh". That was it. So I asked, "Can I tell him anything or bring him anything?" Finally, Brian emerges from behind the shoes. He hands me a DVD of a film about the shoe repair shop that showed at the Mill Valley Film Festival, called In the Cobblers Shoes, Brian said, "give him this," and turns around. I say, "Uh...anything else?" Without looking, Brian says, "Tell him I said hi". Then heads back behind the shoes. Like he just asked me to deliver the thing down the street. No mention of how crazy it is I met his brother in Central America.

So, now we have a special delivery in Panajachel.

DVD of the film. I think you can get it on Netflix. And I think Brian is in it...still not sure.

From our dock at Pasaj Cap, we took the 40 minute boat ride over to Panajachel and found the coffee shop, called the Crossroads Cafe. We weren't sure if Brian's brother Mike would be there but we figured we could always just drop off the DVD and be on our way. We walked in and there was Mike, behind the counter. We briefly mentioned why we were there and after quick introductions he asked us, "Wanna hear a God story?" Hmmm.... I remember him being pretty religious last time I met him so I'm not sure what to do with this question. Before I can answer he showed us a picture. It's of him and his wife in front of a huge boulder. He says God spared his life when when the boulder came through his bedroom. Three weeks ago. We glanced at the picture, and say wow...still not sure about him. Then he started telling other stories, real fast, about life, and stress, raising his kids in Guatemala, trying to make it in Mill Valley, his life in New York before Mill Valley, meeting his wife in South Africa, almost dying in Tanzania...John and I had a hard time keeping up. But it was all very engaging. He served us cappuccinos and African flan cake. When John left to go to the restroom, Mike asked if me if we had plans for lunch. I said no, and he asked, "Wanna come to my house?" and although I wasn't really sure, I said yes without hesitation. Thankfully, John was up for it too. Mike flagged us down a tuk tuk, and we followed him up into the hills outside of the city. In the tuk tuk John and I looked at each other, smiled, and just shrug our shoulders.

This is Mike in the Crossroads Cafe in 2012, when I met him for the first time. (from a crappy iPhone photo)

On the way up to his house, we could see a long finger of dirt that stripped through the trees high on the mountain. We wondered if that was where the boulder started. When we arrived at his home, we met his wife and sat down to a lovely lunch she had prepared. Their beautiful home has been painstakingly built over 12 years...by hand. All of the rock was sourced from the property. We talked and talked, and then they told us about the boulder. Three weeks ago, while they were still in bed early in the morning, they heard a loud rumble like a jet engine. A huge boulder had dislodged high on the mountain above their house, came barreling down, and busted through a retaining wall and rebar, broke through their bedroom wall...and stopped. It stopped three feet from their heads. A piece of it blasted off on impact and covered them in shards of rock. All the windows in the bedroom shattered and mud came pouring in the room and down the stairs.

The boulder. It came through the retaining wall, rock wall of the house, concrete, and rebar. Photos really do not do it's size justice.

Their bed, cracked by the impact that pushed it across the room.

Mike talked a lot about what it all meant. Looking at the boulder and the near death experience of it all, it's hard not to agree that it's a pretty good God story - or divine intervention, or higher power, or Pachamama, or whatever you call it. We tallked about living a purposeful life, the way he and his wife chose to do in this little town on a lake in Guatemala. About cherishing each day and not letting the madness of "more" consume us all. Mike said he thinks he just needed a reminder so he's pretty thankful for the boulder.

Mike, his wife and their lovely home (all cleaned up).

Gate to Mike's property. This is for my Dutch family...it means beautiful woods (in Dutch and Afrikaans).

Mike had to get back to the coffee shop so we said our thank you's to he and his wife, and climbed into a tuk tuk back to town. On the way, John and I talked about the appreciation we have for living this crazy life on the road. The simplicity of it, and all the new places and people we have met. We are thankful it didn't take a boulder crashing through our bedroom wall to wake us up to make the change.

Our delivery mission was complete, but I couldn't help thinking we got a lot more out of the experience than Mike did. I'm not even sure if he'll watch the movie. Or if his brother is even in it.

#guatemala