Lingua Mea Vita

Growing Up Guate

I don’t know how I feel about fate.

On one hand, I desperately want to believe in the power of my own agency. But then, from the other hand,  “fate” throws little zingers my way that force me  to believe that I’m not always in control. But after today, I’m almost sure fate exists…almost.

I’d tuned into Snap Judgment on NPR today while I was speeding around town looking for a Girl Scout cookie booth to satisfy a (very rare) chocolate craving. Whenever I catch Snap Judgment on the radio, I half-joke to myself, “I should send in the story about how I was kidnapped in Guatemala on Friday the 13th”.

Then it hit me that tomorrow (March 13) will be the two-year-anniversary of the kidnapping.

Then Glynn Washington emotes,

“…there’s a guy in the corner, and he says, “Yeah, I’ve got a story. Once, I was kidnapped. By the FARC. In Colombia.”

I immediately cranked the volume up like his story was a pop song.

I listened to Jason McLaughlin (with annotations from the story’s producer Anne Elizabeth Moore) tell my whole life with his words (Oh, Roberta Flack and your Killing Me Softly…you have nothing on this):

  • He was in college at the time of his kidnapping. I was in college at the time of mine.
  • He went to Colombia and was kidnapped by a guerrilla group. I was in Guatemala and was kidnapped by what the locals call guerrillas, but I don’t know much about the men who did so (except one had a Salvadorean accent, not Guatemalan.) Either way, both countries do not have the best reputations in North America.
  • Jason (and his friend) had been hiking in the jungle, attempting to canoe the Putamayo River. I’d been doing volunteer work in the jungle (with my friends) and was headed to Lake Atitlan at the time of my kidnapping.
  • He was tied up, and led through a field, through woods, to a river. I was tied up, led through a field, to a river.

The parallels were eerie. But there was something unsettling comfortable about knowing someone had gone through a similar trauma to me. But the very best part was that Jason McLaughlin was able to verbalize what I’ve tried to tell people when they ask me if I was scared during the ordeal:

“The thing about being kidnapped is that you have to get used to the idea that you don’t know what’s going on. You don’t know the rules, you don’t know what the situation is, you can try to pay attention and figure stuff out. The very hard thing is feeling okay with not knowing what the plan is, though one part of the plan may mean you get killed really soon.”

Our stories started to differ when he revealed that he’d been held by the FARC for over a year. I’d been held for hours.  And though I hadn’t experienced a kidnapping with the same length of time, I felt like I could relate to every thing he mentioned.

It was hands down the easiest story for me to relate to that I’d heard on the radio. And it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

So could my unusual chocolate craving have been the universe forcing me to my car to hear Jason McLaughlin’s story on the anniversary of my kidnapping? Maybe. I’ll entertain that idea. But what I know for sure is that by listening to Jason’s story, I learned a way to explain my story and answer people’s questions about my kidnapping in a way that feels more honest and whole.

We are all connected, folks! And sometimes it takes little bits of fate to make us see the connections.

To listen to Jason McLaughlin’s story for yourself, check out Snap Judgment’s Warning Signs episode.


1 Comment so far
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I don’t beleive in coincidences. It was fate ,now what are you supposed to do with it?

Comment by Abena

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