We arrived bright and early on Friday morning. Our sister church pastor gave us a ride to the community. We hopped out of the vehicle and called out to Julia who was happy and so surprised to see us just after breakfast. We hugged and hugged like ositas (little bears). Pastor asked if we were OK (he had to leave for a meeting), and Julia said, "Sure we are las tres mosqueteras - una para todas y todas para una (the three musketeers - one for all and all for one)." Pastor left, and las tres mosqueteras marched down the little steps into Julia's "compound."
Julia's place has changed over the years. The original house still serves as the kitchen and storeroom. It's hard to believe that twelve years ago we all slept in this hot little space - that first night in the community cementing us together as special friends forever. The newer house is about 10 feet away from the old one, leaving enough room in between for a small circle of plastic chairs to be placed in the dappled shade of a mango tree. This is where we gathered to catch up and share the stories of our lives.
Julia proudly shares that she has lost weight and feels better. She recalls events from the night of her son's murder. The passage of time and talking about her son is helping to relieve the strain on her body and spirit. Pirate, the big dog, sniffs and settles nearby. "He knows you," Julia said. Pirate, his wife (whose name I can never remember) and Ranger (their almost grown pup) offer companionship and protection. So does the padlock on the chain link gate. The cat Mishka (or something that sounds like that) and variety of wandering chickens and ducks offer companionship.
Pretty soon it's time to walk to school to go get the little ones. It is parent-teacher conference time, and the kindergarten children and their parents are preparing for next year. The other kids are all at recess and we offer our usual enormous disruption to the organized chaos. I love the sing-songy way in which the kids call out our names.
We walk home with the kids, bumping into friends along the way. Then we return to our spot in the shade. The vegetable lady comes to the gate and Julia negotiates the purchase of green beans, tomatoes and laroco. Julia's grandson hauls out a desk (it has wheels) and takes out his homework. This is his routine, to "open his office" after school each day. Julia pulls the ends off of the beans while the little guy does homework. Pretty soon the homework, which involved coloring in some letter shapes, is finished and a little friend comes over to play. It's not even lunch time yet and we have already shared a full and lovely day.