Barranquilla is now a dream- memory. I replay the scenes in my mind so as not to forget. Yet, unlike the past five decades, I now have phone numbers and email addresses to maintain alive those renewed friendships.
I emailed Jose as soon as I arrived back in Chile. After two weeks of no response, I wrote his son, Kevin, “I’m worried….no news.” Jose wrote a brief email the next day. His mother, Herminda, had suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. “Madrina,” he said, “We miss you. It seems we’ve known you for a long time. I was so sad when you left…couldn’t find the words…..”
His feelings reflected mine, I wrote. I sent photos, more emails, but received no more responses. Impatient, I called him. Hearing his voice with its distinctive coastal accent made him a real, flesh and blood person again. His mother was now home and receiving therapy. Sunday all the family would be celebrating her 87th birthday. They’d even hired a mariachi band. “This may be her last birthday,” he said.
Since my return, I’ve learned more about the man who is my godson. He is not proficient at the computer. Though his handwritten letters were always neat and grammatically correct, his typed emails are short and garbled, yet reflecting an openly affectionate person. I realize that he is a dedicated family man who works long hours and has little time to write or learn computer skills. I’ve had to modify my expectations for frequent, newsy communication.
I want to ease his load. I wrote to say I’d help with the education of the two boys. Kevin graduates from high school and must decide on a future course of study, which will involve major expenses.
My whirlwind visit to Barrio Las Americas left me dissatisfied. Barrio faces and scenes hold me in their grasp. I want to stay involved with that community. I have Agripina and Eugenia in mind and am exploring the possibility of a micro-loan project founded by returned Peace Corps volunteers to support small barrio business endeavors.
How can I not help? Santiago, December, 2015