At 10:30 on Thursday morning, with my head hung in defeat and the fresh bag of bread still in my hands, I turned around to head home. After spending thirty minutes knocking on every door in the neighborhood and talking to as many neighbors as possible, I decided to save my mission for another day. I was searching for an old woman who comes to the senior center where I teach art classes on Mondays and who had asked me to come visit her. My search was complicated by the fact that I did not know the woman’s name, nor had I ever been to her house.
As I turned a corner during my disappointed walk home, I was reminded of just how pleasantly small Pimampiro is when I ran into just the woman I was looking for. She invited me back up to her house, and I found myself in a sparse one-room home behind a door that I had knocked on earlier to no avail. We sat down to watch TV and she poured me a cup of soda and made me a hard-boiled egg.
We talked, and she showed me pictures of her family. Her nephew lives in Colombia and her sister lives in the United States (she was surprised and disappointed when I told her that I don’t think I’ve ever met her sister). She told me that she was born in Colombia but has lived in Pimampiro for 51 years and before that, she spent 5 years living más arriba en las montañas (higher up in the mountains). She likes living here, but sometimes she gets lonely because her husband works in the fields all day and she doesn’t have anyone to talk to. We talked some more and I helped her sort some beans into rotten and non-rotten piles. When it was time for me to go, I gave her my gift of a bag of bread and in exchange she gave me a bag of homemade bread and the bag of non-rotten beans that we had just sorted. Not wanting to take what little food she had, I tried to dodge the gifts. Of course she insisted and, not wanting to be rude, I took them.
It didn’t matter that the bread turned out to be too hard to chew or that we had to sort through the beans to pick out the worm-filled ones. What mattered was that despite how little she had, despite the fact that her gifts to me probably accounted for more than half the food in her house, she didn’t hesitate to give me her best in exchange for a simple visit.
Later that week, I ate something that gave me a terrible stomachache. When I went to teach art classes to the senior citizens, I didn’t eat lunch with them like I usually do and they were all worried about me. The next day, a packet of fruit powder promising to ease my stomach pain showed up at my door. Mí mamá gave it to me and within a few hours, I was feeling better. It wasn’t until I ran into the old woman at the market and she asked me if I was feeling better that I realized it was her who had left the medicine, which turned out to be a traditional Colombian cure. She asked me to visit her again and told me that she could give me more medicine if I ever needed it.
I promised to stop by again, because it didn’t matter that the fruit powder tasted terrible. What mattered was that even after only one meeting, my new friend already cared enough about me to make the trek down to my house to make sure that I got medicine. In her, I have found a friend and from her, I have learned that friendship comes in many forms. I will definitely visit her again, even though my stomach is currently doing fine.