People I'd Like to Meet (III)

As I wrote in my last post, I still actually buy a printed newspaper sometimes, and yesterday was one of those days. I was downtown, having just made a few visits to internship sites and felt in need of a coffee break. It had been a very busy morning and I hadn't had any breakfast beyond the initial early am coffee. So I got El País and went into a little bar for breakfast. Like the bar of the title of the famous Hemingway story: a clean well-lighted place. But when I sat down it was late morning, not late at night. And no coñac for me. (How many years has it been?) There's a man around my age at the bar having a beer. He looks depressed, worried. It's quiet. The young man who serves me is pleasant enough. A woman is going back and forth bringing trays of tapas out to the counter, getting ready for the midday rush. Unlike in the US, you don't have to be a drinker to enjoy bars here. I still love them. Then again, a bar in Spain often has little relation to those dark places you go to for drinks in the US. When I put down the booze I wasn't much of a bar frequenter in the US, but they immediately became of zero interest to me. Anyway, I was brought some fresh squeezed orange juice, toast and olive oil, and another cup of coffee. Wonderful! And I got to read the amazing story of Víctor Hugo Rodríguez. Víctor is a soldier, finishing up a tour of duty in Irak for the US Army. But he's not an American citizen. Víctor is Bolivian. Here's a short version of his story: in 1997, at age 19 and in desperate poverty in La Paz, Víctor decided he had to make a change. So he left for the US with $20 in his pocket and a dream in his head. He crossed Peru and Ecuador by helping truck drivers load and unload in exchange for rides. He told border guards in Colombia he was going to be a university student. He made it to Cali and hoped to get a bus from there to Panama. No buses from Cali. Only five dollars left. So he walked through the jungle with a Colombian and a Brazilian he had just met. Seven days of walking, no trail after four. They made it to a river. Shots fired. The other two disappeared. He received assistance from indigenous people on the Colombia/Panama border. Eventually he made it across Central America and into Mexico. Got across the border and into Texas on his second try. Five months. From Texas he made it to New York and got work in construction. In 2000 he married a fellow Bolivian and now he and his wife have two daughters. In 2006 he joined the army. When he gets out of the army he wants to go to university and become a journalist. He is due back in the US in February, and shortly thereafter he will become a US citizen. I wish him great luck. For the full story go to http://www.elpais.com. You can find the story in the archive: December 5th, International, the article titled "De La Paz a la guerra en Irak". And some people complain. This young man has many lives worth of adventures already. He had a dream and he went after it. How much easier it would have been to give up. I'd love to meet Víctor and his family someday. I'd like to thank him, to hear more of his story, and to learn how his dreams are progressing. When I finished reading about Víctor it was time to get back to work. Too bad, I could have happily spent an hour or two in that simple little bar. Dreams today in Malaga look promising: Daniela is here, the sunrise was spectacular, and the coffee is ready. It's a holiday: Constitution Day and this year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1978 carta magna. (In the photo above, Calle Granada, which continues to the left, just before it ends in the Plaza de la Constitución.)

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