Thursday, May 1, 2014

Return to the Tropics

I brushed my hair, put on a touch of lipstick and asked my husband to take a head photo of me. “You’ll have to take about fifty to get a decent one.” He took thirteen, all of them unacceptable. Do I really look like that?
“They’re fine,” he says.
“Not for public consumption,” I reply.
I’m hoping to do some blogging on the Peace Corps Writers webpage. They’ve asked for photos from my Peace Corps experience, fifty years ago, and a current headshot, a true eye opener. What we see in the mirror is a photo-shopped image, not how others see us.
Going through my old Peace Corps photos, many of them on slides (remember them?), stirred up memories, particularly the forgotten faces of people I’d known in the Colombian barrios where I worked.

Those memories and the familiar tropical climate and coastal vocabulary of Cien Años de Soledad motivate me to read on. Tackling it in Spanish isn’t as difficult as I expected, but I do not recommend it for bedtime reading. It requires concentration, especially if you want to keep straight the names of the male characters: José Arcadio, father and son, Arcadio, Aureliano, Aureliano José, Aureliano Segundo, José Arcadio Segundo. Thank god for the handy family tree. García Marquez had a mischievous sense of humor.

            Returning to Colombia is at the top of my bucket list. I want to see how those impoverished barrios have changed. Would I see people who remember me? Would the precarious roads be paved and the shacks converted into solid dwellings? I want to taste fried plantains again, hear the wild chorus of nighttime frogs and inhale that humid, heavy air that sharpened my senses and opened my eyes, in those days when I was young, smooth-skinned and innocent.

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