When I traveled to New Orleans a few months after Katrina, my friend Lindsey and I spent an afternoon driving around gawking at the damage. At the end of the day, I was spent; I needed home. Not Shreveport, necessarily, but some place of refuge – a bookstore, a coffee shop, a Scottish pub.
Home doesn’t have to be a physical place, I’ve learned. Today I went home to a person – Rosa – who for me personifies that concept in a way that I hadn’t realized.
Rosa, mother of one of UBECI‘s co-founders, is about about sixty-five and served as my first mother in Ecuador. When I arrived in August 2007 I knew limited Spanish, immediately landed a level three sinus infection,* and was fitfully processing the previous six months as a social worker in Shreveport as I prepared for my team coming in September. Rosa listened, carefully. She also did enough talking to make me realize that this tiny old woman who guts her own guinea pigs, uses every drop of water at least four times before giving it to the pigs and is just now learning how to read, might be one of the sharpest, wisest, most determined human being I have ever met.
And for me, she is home. Not having visited in about six months, I had developed that Catholic know of guilt in my stomach that starts to form when you haven’t visited your grandmother in too long. So when Fabián failed to show up for our meeting this morning, I swallowed hard and pointed my nose to Rosa’s.
Thankfully, Rosa did not berate me for not showing my face more often, and seemed genuinely grateful to see me and take a break from feeding the pigs. We talked about Obama (“Have you heard about his family? He used to be poor, like us!), the Rafael Correa flag outside her door and what I thought about the new president, the dwarf beans from her son in Italy that she is going to try and plant soon, and the old grandfather who se fue a otro mundo (“went to the other side,” loosely) three months ago. We laughed at the social work stories I told her over a year ago, and she asked if I could find her the telephone number for Ecuador’s Vice President. He’s handicapped, and Rose thinks if she could get him on the phone, that maybe he’d know how to help her handicapped son, too. If he knows what’s good for him – or if he takes the time to get to know Rosa – he probably will.