If we think back to when we were younger, most of our closest relationships were with people who were lived just down the road. The community would never stretch much further than beyond the main road. However, the interactions that we have with the communities in South America are different. Children in the communities and the Canadian participants build strong relationships and in many cases they become attached to one another in a way that they never experienced before. However, for most of the year these relationships are separated by about 6000 kilometres.
What happens then when we leave the community? How do the friendships sustain themselves once we leave the community? Do the bonds we made begin to loosen? An announced visit to the community and a surprise invitation changed my understanding of our relationships and our community.
Above the busy bus “terminal” in Pacifico, the soccer field remained empty, there were no kids to be seen welcoming us, or preparing for a visit to the park. Just a few shouts could be heard as kids called to one another between the makeshift houses. It was a far cry from the one hundred community members who bide us farewell the previous F
riday. I was not disappointed. I like making announced visits to the community, either alone or in small groups. It is as if we get a genuine snapshot of everyday life in the community.
We met Stefany as we headed towards a house where our names were being called. It was the house of Luis (Lucho) – guardian of the Peace Park (developed by SIA May trip leaders – Jamie, Anjali, Andrea and Stefanie) and the sole owner of the loud speaker for Comite 6. We sat with Luis, Mayra (his daughter), Johan (his son) and we enjoyed his wife’s (name escapes me) home made flan. Luis and his family were excited about his upcoming birthday. It would mark his half centennial. We also discussed the newly completed retaining wall and Florentino (leader of Comite 7) joined us to discuss the proposed
renovations to the daycare, Niño de Jesús. For most of the time the children sat quietly. However as we were headed through the door Stefany announced that she was going to visit our home. It was a nice surprise. However, it seemed as if it would be no small task for an eleven year old to travel such a distance. The trip would take one hour and may include getting off and on two combis.
The children, accompanied by Leiticia, Stefany’s sister in law, arrived shortly after 7. They were greeted by the four remaining Canadians and a delicious spread of food. The kids thoroughly enjoyed dinner. After dinner, Calyn, Nat and Kathryn painted and completed art activities with the children.
The evening ran away from us and before we knew it was 9:00PM, the time that I had promised to return with the children. The budding artists hugged the girls and bid them farewell. I accompanied Laeticia and the children back to Pacifico.
The evening was a great success. The kids went home with full stomachs and lovely pieces of art work. We were able to return the hospitality that we were so generously offered during our week in Pacifico.
The community is stretching. Although we have not decreased the physical distance that separates us during most of the year there is something special that is happening. Perhaps the relationships that we build do not only exist when we are physically in the community. Sitting enjoying flan with the Acevedo’s or sharing the evening with the children, is a genuine experience. There is something reassuring about the fact that the children from Pacifico can just jump on a combi and visit their Canadian friends in Barranco.
It is amazing to think that given the distances, friends are just popping off to go down the road to visit their friends.