Thursday, January 28, 2010

walking to church in the sun in Anapra
Phone calls to Mexico always give me perspective. My friend does not live under the palm trees of Cancun, but rather on the dusty border overlooking the bustling America. The sun beats hard in the summer, and the temperature dips low in the winter. The water is not fit for drinking, most live in pallets and tar paper houses, and right now the violence is terrifying.

Last night, as I hurried home from a busy day in Cubeville I called her up. The cars rushing around me, everyone hurrying home, and her voice full of gratitude in my ear. It was a good drive.
After updates on health and safety of all her kids (six in all), her neighbors and our friends we moved on to bigger things. A new baby on the way…seems there always is. This time its her daughter, again. Her daughter is stunningly beautiful, and eighteen years old. Don't be shocked, motherhood starts much younger just across the border.

Her daughter has been hospitalized several times because of her kidneys. This pregnancy has brought the problems on worse and more frequent. My friend tells her she should not have any more children after this. "Life is too hard Katie, and I am getting tired…really very tired, you know?"
I ask about Haiti, I wonder what the truly poor think about the plight of other truly poor who suffer as well…"are you all following what's happening in Haiti?"
"Oh yes, Katie, isn't it aweful. We have had several times people have gathered donations around Anapra, and it is amazing that all of the families are giving Katie! I even drove by the Red Cross building the other day and school children were out front packaging supplies to send. It's amazing Katie, and so sad, too."

I pull into the supermarket parking lot to grab something quick for dinner. The phone is hugging my ear as she goes on. Abundant supplies of every sort of delicious treat surround me and I imagine her sitting in her cinderblock kitchen, the vinyl chair ripped and torn that she sits in, its metal legs resting on a frigid concrete floor…concrete poured by hand, her hand and her husband's.
She is reminicing her trip to Kansas City this past summer. She tells me that the encouragement she received during her visit have sustained her through many incredibly tough challenges she has faced since returning home. Death mostly, ugly painful death.
Her accent and hopefulness combine to an inspiring mix that causes me to stop in the bakery and just listen. "You should write a book" I tell her, "You have a lot of wisdom".

"Oh Katie, perhaps someday I could tell you my whole story, but if it was all in one big book no one would believe its true."
And she's probably right. The bits and pieces I have heard seem surreal if not unreal. But I've seen photographs, met the actors who all play a part in her screenplay. It is real.
"You know" she goes on. "The hardest days of my life were when we moved to Anapra. I would wake up every day angry that this was my life. That I had so much struggle. I would wonder why I had to be alive. I was a dark person Katie. Really."

I know this part of the story, at least parts. I've heard how they moved to a desert, one of the first inhabitants of this little village. They selected a plot of sand and sun and put up a pallet house within hours, in order to lay their claim. Then it rained, and rained, and rained. Under tar-paper they sat, she and her babies. There were two, maybe three little ones underfoot. They placed a sheet of plastic over a makeshift crib to keep the infant from being soaked. I have no doubt that those were hard times.
"Then I met Brother Jim [a local missionary, former monk, and all around interesting character]"

I know this part, too. They met in the deli of the grocery store in downtown. He was struggling to tell the man behind the counter what he wanted. My friend had not spoken a word of English in over ten years, having grown up in LA but then shipped back to her mother at the age of 13. She remembers an internal dialogue she had with herself 'If I help him this once, I can never go back, he will want more help.' And she was right.
Brother Jim began to count on my friend for translations frequently. Then she met other American volunteers interested in helping her community, in any little way they could. And then she met Ross, and then she met people from Kansas City, and then, and then, and then. Then there was hope. Then the darkness began to be overcome by Light.

"It was people Katie, they gave me hope. People. So important." She trails off.
My arms are breaking, I foolishly have loaded up on grub without a cart. She has to go, too, dinner to make, half-a-dozen or more grandkids to see. Life to go on to.
Life. To go on.


Sally Rymer said...

I feel the same way when I talk to my Israeli friends about the conflict they live amidst, both external war and internal questioning about their obligatory military service. Their stories seem unreal, beyond my realm of experience. One of them said after winter break, "It's hard to go back there after you've been somewhere safe."

Little Ugly said...

Thank you for sharing this post.