Here’s a picture of Rigoberto, whom I mentioned at the end of the last concrete email:
Rigoberto shared his glove with me, so that I could cover my bandaged hand and avoid any further injury or infection.
I mentioned my herniated disc here and here: there were several pieces to that story, though. I would take breaks from our work so that my back could rest for a few moments. Although I aimed for discretion, it wasn’t always a success. Case in point, my conversation with Ever.
Ever was a Guatemalan Police Officer, with la ciudad, and he had wandered over from Paso a Paso to watch us while we worked. He introduced himself “My name is Ever, like For-Ever.”
Ever and I began to chat in my broken Spanish and his broken English. It’s possible to learn much, in spite of the language barriers, when you really listen: gestures, facial expressions, shared candy. It’s all there. Ever asked me about our group–I tried to explain that I had only just met the teenagers, and that they had come from the north (Michigan) while I had come from the east (near Washington, D.C.).
When he realized I was from DC, Ever shared with me about a cousin of his who was in Virginia, working as a day laborer, doing much the same work as what we were doing. Ever and I talked about his cousin’s journey into the United States, which had been a dangerous journey through the desert– I imagine it was one where he snuck into the country. More than anything, I wanted to have the language to discuss this issue with him. Instead, all I could manage was to say over and over again what I thought meant “It’s broken… It’s no good for anyone: not us in the States, not people who want to come to the US.” Words can create nuance, and I was lacking in the correct words. I felt a smidge of what I imagine Ever’s cousin might feel in Virginia: why couldn’t I just express what I wanted to? What was Ever thinking about my skills? It was so frustrating that I couldn’t find the right words and I could only think in present tense (mixed with Italian).
As our chat progressed throughout the day, I learned more. Ever did not want to be a police officer forever; in fact, his plan was to study architecture, not this fall, but in fall 2013. He was saving money and working so that he could study English and pay for university. Ever wanted to build schools. I’m pretty sure that Ever was in his early 20s–yet he seemed more adult, in some ways, than my 29 years. I mean, he carried a beat stick and 2 guns–both a handgun around his waist and a rifle slung over his back. Ever wanted to practice his English, so we’d switch between the two.
When I graduated from high school, my dilemma was whether or not I’d go to college and take out loans, or if I’d put it off and save money to attend. Work wasn’t my only option– even though I amassed large amounts of student debt, it was still an option for me. Ever didn’t have that option and so he was carrying around 2 guns and chatting with los gringos. As we watched the students work, Ever offered me a piece of candy; we’d been warned about eating local food, but I’d been to foreign countries before and eaten food safely. My only concern was whether or not the students would see me–the candy was intriguing, unlike anything I’d seen before, perhaps a form of M&M–so I turned my back to the kids, and faced Ever, and we shared a surreptitious moment.
Shared transformation: I can only hope that Ever was as struck by our exchange as I was. In fact, he asked me if I was on Facebook so that he and I could be Facebook friends. Conversation, listening, stories exchanged. Changing the world, one convo at a time.
Have you ever met anyone who’s connected with you like I did with Ever?