Gong Show

I’d think it would be obvious that, when you’ve built a dedicated temple in your back yard, as one does, and have had it blessed twice by the grand master from Taiwan, and you spend two hours a day in meditation, that you’d need a gong.

When the temple property in Guatemala came up for sale recently, original members were asked if they’d want anything such as personal property, that they’d left behind. Greg remembered the gong in temple hall where they had practiced. He had been in charge of caring for the gongs, and it meant something to him. This was the smaller gong, only 34 inches, with a gong holder, slightly larger. And a mallet.

The only issue was how to transport it to Fond du Lac. Oh, wait. . .Paula and Michael are there right now! Why can’t they just bring it?

I’d been looking forward to a simple trip back to the states, with only 2 suitcases. Imagine my delight when Michael agreed to pack it.

There are no packing supply stores in San Marcos, but we did make a trip to Pana, a larger village across the lake, for Leticia’s follow up appointment to have stitches removed. So Michael and Frank went store to store to ask for any cardboard that may be in a back room somewhere. On the third try they found a young man who was willing to help. He gave them the packaging from some implement and some plastic as well. We brought the cardboard back, on the boat, and Michael set out designing a way to package the items.

It took him 2 days. And three packages of tape.

The gong had to be transported from a friend’s hostel to our rental to get the packing started. Michael and Frank started out with it and the holder but had to stop on the path. Michael says it was his cardiac stress test and he performed well. Then an older guy was also walking up the path and Frank recognized him as a neighbor. They offered to pay him if he could help.

The locals are very strong people, having to haul wood from the surrounding area for their stoves to make meals. So, this man could help. They paid him the equivalent of 15 dollars, and Frank said that was probably the most money the man has made his entire life, at one time.

How to then haul it back down the path to the shuttle when we traveled from the village to Guatemala City? Leticia’s father came to say good-bye to us, and he ended up carrying it and the suitcases.

From the shuttle to the hotel room? Hotel porters, of course. With enough tip money, you can do anything. They even agreed to store it for us overnight, so we didn’t have to take it up to our room.

The shuttle driver to the airport also helped. As did porters at the airport, who patiently stood with the times on a cart while we stood in line for about 30 minutes. We called them over once we were at the check in.

Unfortunately, the agent did not see or agree to check the Delta website’s guidelines for transporting a musical instrument. He refused to let us check it in. After 20 minutes of haggling, Michael finally appealed to the agent to make an exception for us. The agent then checked with his supervisor, and we were charged $250. But we were happy to pay it rather than abandon it at the airport.

Getting it through customs in Atlanta? No problem, just get a cart and the 2 of us lifted it.

Once in Milwaukee, at midnight when our flight arrived, there were no other people at the Delta baggage claim, but there was the gong and the gong holder. Not my suitcase, but, oh well.

Michael asked the agent there to check the website and sure enough, the guidelines for transporting a musical instrument were clear. We had correctly measured the items and were well within the limits. He kindly refunded the money. So, it traveled for free.

The airport hotel employees were excited to know that our large packages were gong supplies. Word got out among the staff, who came by to gaze at the items.

We drove home to FDL in a blizzard and when we finally got home, we took pictures of the packages and the unveiling. Now it sits in our family room. Greg plays it every now and then.