Dear Emily Elizabeth,
I wake up and am surprised at how cool the morning is. I open the door to my little room and am greeted by a pair of large, brown eyes. They belong to a little girl, maybe five years old. She's barefoot. Her long mane of hair matches her eyes, a deep brown. I smile at her, not to reassure her, but because she seems unspoiled by the toughness of her world. She seems perfect. She smiles back, and then brings forward a little boy from behind her back. He's her equal, her little brother. We look at each other. Minutes pass. And then they're given the loaf of bread they came for, smile their goodbyes, and leave, the brother walking at a practiced stumble behind his trusted guardian.
Eggs. Beans. Tortillas. Coffee.
The bus ride into the city is pleasant. More people, their stories worn on their backs and faces; more countryside, covered in the early morning sun; more siblings, dozing on shoulders, fighting over snacks, altogether right.
And then I'm struck by the view. For a year and a half, I've been riding through the coffee plantations of the distant volcano, marveling at the beauty and content with the study of what once was the horizon, and is now my home.
We turn a corner. And for the second time, i witness the devastation of the recent tropical storm. A landslide rolled over a small village, sweeping what was left into the river.
We arrive. The market. I get off the bus and am shoved and pushed by the crowd. I sturdy my shoulders and push back, and am immediately given al the space i need. There's no anger in the exchange. Life here is an experiment of human discomfort. The limits, generally, are the relation of necessity to comfort. I push because there are too many of us with too many things to do to stand around waiting for the next person. But I am not excessive. In this way, we all get where we're going, a little uncomfortable, but no worse for the wear.
Outdoors. Tomatoes, onions, exotic fruits i still don't know the names to. Bartering, brightening sun, the press of a thousand smells.
And then i enter the mouth of the beast, the covered tunnels of the unending market. Plastic, paper, meat, fish, spices, people everywhere.
And then im outside again.
In front of me, a toddler stumbles with similar bewilderment, her hands held on one side by her mother and on the other by her older brother. The brother lingers too long in front of a pair of sneakers. The mother, enraged, thrashes her son on the head. He hardly reacts, but his sister bursts into tears.
I'm back in my town. It's mid afternoon and unforgivably hot. Isabel asks if I would accompany her to a funeral. We walk to the church, and she tell me about the man that died. He was "bien amigo"-"very friendly." Seventy years old. Loved to work. He was in the fields, cutting sugar cane. His son was next to him. A heart attack, severe. He died within minutes. His son carried him home over his shoulder, sobbing. They mourned him with friends and family, sitting in the house drinking coffee and telling stories all night. Today, the funeral. We walk inside. It's full. We find two plastic chairs and put ourselves near a side door. I can see the family of the deceased sitting up front. They are all fighting tears. All but one, and she is inconsolable. I ask, Is that his wife? And Isabel tells me no, that's his sister.