It Takes A Pueblo

My work painting windows is progressing and in another two weeks or so I should be able to be back at our own house project. It rained heavily yesterday, so I took the time away from the paintbrush to get more painting supplies.

In the afternoon, my current English student, Sadie (in Spanish, Cede), came by for her lesson. Hernan and Abdiel, who I have mentioned in some of my previous posts, are her brothers. Sadie and I have stepped up our schedule because her English class at school is having a competition in August. She has invited Cynthia and me to the event, and I am really looking forward to it. First prize is a hundred dollars, and I would like to see her win. I asked her if any of her classmates were being tutored by a native English speaker and she said no, they are learning by studying the dictionary. Ugg, how arduous.

Near the end of our class Sadie got a call from her father, Ignacio. They live in a pueblo a five-kilometer up-and-down-the-mountain walk for most of the inhabitants from the main road that runs past our house. Life there is fairly basic when it comes to amenities. From what I could gather from eavesdropping on the call, the pueblo had gotten together and purchased an entire flatbed truckload of 500 sacks of cement. Each of the 50 families was due 10 of the 94-pound bags. Ignacio asked if I could shuttle their ten bags into the pueblo for them, and I agreed.

When Sadie and I got to where the dirt road turns off the main road, there was a gathering of 60 or 70 people from the pueblo to move the cement. The men were lined up to take a sack of cement off of the truck and move it into the bus shelter to protect it should it rain. People can get wet, even soaked, but cement… no. By the time they were done, the entire shelter was filled to the ceiling with sacks of cement. Private pickup trucks and pickup taxis started to arrive. I wanted to take photos of the Great Cement Event but just didn’t have time to point and shoot. Sorry.

About then, I got a call from Hannibal, the father of the woman who cleans our house. He was talking very fast but I could sense urgency in his voice. I got him to slow down and I understood that he needed Ambulancia de Fred to come to the kiosko (one room store) in the other pueblo down that dirt road. It seems that his youngest son, maybe four, had hit his head in a car crash. There is still a ways to go here in Panama with the seat belt thing.

I told Sadie’s dad the story and said I would be back to move his cement as soon as I could, and then I headed to the kiosko. The roads are beginning to deteriorate now in the rainy season, but for the most part they are still passable with our 4wd Honda Ridgeline. I can hear the car’s computer thinking as it decides which tire to spin as the gravel gives way under the tires on the steeply inclined hills. There will come a time in a few months when these roads will be for high-clearance vehicles only, and these types of emergencies will become more dangerous to the victims.

Hannibal and his son were waiting for me. Even before they got into the car I could see a huge goose egg swelling on the boy’s forehead, and it was very black and blue. I made the best speed I could, turned back onto the main road and headed for the Central de Salud (government health clinic) in town.

I dropped Hannibal and his boy off and asked him to call me when they were ready to go back home, that is unless they needed to go in the real ambulance to the hospital an hour away from here.

Back to the cement detail, we loaded the family’s ten bags into the pickup, and along with Sadie, Ignacio, Hernan, and younger brother Benjamin, we drove v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y to their house. The men rode in back on top of the cement. I was pleased that we didn’t bottom out as I guided the Honda through the ruts in the dirt road.

We unloaded, then the family asked if they could wash the truck for me. Favors for this family don’t go unnoticed, and they always try to pay what they can; not in money because there is very little, but perhaps a dozen eggs from their chickens or some produce from their garden or fruit trees.

I had to turn the car wash down, “Another year,” I said, as just then I got a call from Hannibal that the boy was going to be okay to go home for the night. Another round trip to town and to their pueblo and I was done for the day. Hannibal did ask if I was able to come at seven this morning to take him and the boy out to the bus stop. They still needed to go down the mountain to a better-equipped clinic to get an x-ray of the boy’s head. So this morning I gulped my oatmeal and took care of that deed.

Last night, Cynthia and I were watching The Secret Millionaire on television. At the end of the show, the millionaire said, “If you want to feel good about yourself, do something for someone else.” It takes a pueblo to move 500 sacks of cement and to get medical care for a young boy. And for a couple hours I was a part of those two pueblos and yes, I have to say that I feel good about my being able to help. But I couldn’t put my finger on something else that I was feeling. I mentioned it to Cynthia when we muted the TV for a blaring advertisement, and she asked if I was feeling a sense of family. Both her family and mine are teeny-tiny and I think that we feel an overwhelming sense of family when we participate, doing what we can for these bigger-than-life families.

That’s all for now.

9 thoughts on “It Takes A Pueblo

    • Yes, Lexy, it is an amazing thing to be outsiders and to be needed and included. I only wish I could do more. The need is so great. I am thinking about a future project — not many of the families in these pueblos have electricity and they still use kerosene lanterns in the house at night, and they create lots of indoor pollution. I am trying to figure out how to get some solar panels and led lighting for the community to replace the lanterns.We’ll see.

  1. A beautiful story. Home and family can be anywhere you make it happen, and you certainly have. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Loved reading this..that last bit about you ‘realising what you were feeling was a sense of family’..really warmed my heart. Yes, please continue to share your stories (not just the fascinating and educational container build ones)..they not only give us a true sense of who you two are, but show the real meaning of belonging..what we each desire, I believe. Lovely! (and hopefully many of your building tips will help us as we begin a container build in Governors Bay, Christchurch, New Zealand, next year 🙂

    • Hi Jessie,

      Thank you very much for your kind compliment, it warmed my heart (along with the chicken soup that we just had on this rainy, chilly day here in Panama)! I think that your comment moves to the “most cherished comments” category. I would love to see how you progress with your container project — they are just so much fun and you will learn a lot. Best wishes, Fred

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