Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day Off

February 25

From my bedroom window on the top floor, I am staring at green tin roofing. It's encircled in rolls of razor-wire along the top of the neighbor's fence, and beneath the wire is some graffiti- the same three silver letters I've admired from this window for these last 7 months. Above the wire, the sky is white and gray. It feels like a Friday...

But it's Thursday, and there is time to rest. The grammar tests are stacked on our teacher's desks. Our notes are set aside, and my bed, which is usually covered in these notes, reference books, verb conjugations, construction-paper note cards and a Spanish-English dictionary, is empty. It will be a three-day weekend, and this time-- there is no homework. I take a deep breath, and continue to stare at the silver graffiti.

Friday afternoon
February 26

Abigail and Julia are with me. We're walking with our vegetable bags in-tow, but they're empty. The narrow curb we're following into Desamparados is laden with trash and broken glass. The cement is uneven and cracked, making it important to watch where we step. There are deep holes stuffed with bottles and wrappers and something rancid.

We cross a bridge over brown water and admire tin houses built above the river. Some are painted turquoise, some are copper. Drying t-shirts hang just barely above adobe-potted red geraniums. The geraniums are stunning against peeling turquoise paint. We stop on the bridge while Abigail drops a leaf and watches it float slowly into the brown river. Julia is interested in the fact that the leaf follows invisible zig-zags before finally touching the water, carried along by the current. We think about the people who live in the tin houses. We admire those tin houses and the flowers and the laundry, and we keep walking.

The thrift store I anticipated seeing when we turned the corner is completely gutted. Instead, there are men on extended ladders painting the ceiling of the warehouse. "This is the right street, isn't it?" I muse under my breath, tracing my steps.

There on the corner are braids of onion and garlic hanging from the yellow awnings. Stacks and stacks of bananas and plantains line the corner. Fresh melons are cut into different shapes. I know this is the right corner-- where is the right store?

Julia is tense: "You don't know where you're at, do you? Are we lost?"
"No, and no."

We trace our steps back to a church on the corner. Just across the street is another thrift store. We settle for that one. We walk in and hand our empty bags to the lady who stores them behind the check-out counter and gives us a wooden number in exchange.

The music is loud and there is a smiling woman speaking very rapidly into a microphone attached to a karaoke machine. I listen carefully, and decide she's announced that there are 15 minutes left to gather blouses from the front rack where they are 2 for 1,000 colones. This means they're about a dollar each. Julia races to the section where fancy bathrobes and old-fashioned dresses hang.

"Oh, Abigail, I actually had a dream where I was wearing this dress!"
"I'll buy it for you," boasts Abigail, who never leaves home without her coin purse. She's sifting through her heaviest yellow coins. We each disappear into different aisles, lost in the tightly packed rows of skirts and blouses and dress-up clothes.

When it's time to leave, we hand the smiling karaoke lady our wooden number, and she hands us our bags, where we stuff our treasures. Julia's most happy about a scarf she's found that is the exact bright, clear red of the geraniums at the tin house. Abigail's found a layered silver party dress. Neither one of these things are needed: red scarfs are not necessary in the tropics, nor are party dresses for the jungle, but we couldn't be any more delighted, until we smell the bread bakery, nearing our house.

Instead of going straight, we turn, and quicken our steps toward the smell of hot bread. We load a little red tray with buns for dinner and Abigail adds a loaf of cheese bread insisting that if I don't want to pay for it, she can.

We turn the corner to see our front gate, long after we've heard Nathanael's grunts and cheers. He and Miguel are playing soccer on the tile behind the gate and race to to find the gate key when they see we have yellow bags with bread.

Instead of saving the bread, we all gather around the table after Nathanael hollers, "We're having a bread party for everyone who wants some bread!" He's the first to tear a piece from the cheese loaf, and we all agree that the hot loaf tasted much better than it would've with dinner.

February 27

Miguel has the troops down at the baseball field. Since rainy season is over, the field is no longer a lake. Neighborhood children and men throw and chase balls, preparing even the youngest to join the team.

I am home, taking advantage of the fact that we have water right now. I race through the kitchen chopping radishes and cilantro with celery, green onion and almonds for tuna wraps. I bake oatmeal bars preparing for the time we will spend tomorrow with baby Rebeca, at the cafecito. All the while, I am washing as many dishes as possible and turning over as many loads of laundry as the machine will allow, before there is no water again.

Late Afternoon
February 27

The house is dark and silent and everyone sleeps for now. Oatmeal bars are iced with a vanilla cream, waiting in the refrigerator for tomorrow. I am reading through John 15 both in Spanish and in English over and over, for nothing ever sinks in the first time.

In this moment, I am rejoicing in my freedom: God's Spirit lives in me, directing my thoughts, my words, each choice, as I call out to Him. He is lovingly directing each small detail of my small life, so that I can join Him, the Creator of all that lives and moves and has being, in His huge plan for the nations.