On the drive from the Cali Airport to Guadalajara de Buga (Buga) we passed a scooter on the highway with three people on it: a man, a woman and an infant. The man was driving, and the woman was behind him, holding on to the man with her right arm. Her left arm held the infant to her side. We passed them on a round about. They seemed very casual, just another family outing. I could not help but think that the only thing between the soft little infant and the hard pavement rushing by at 70 km’h was the mother’s arm. The little scene provided instant insight into the difference between life in Canada and in developing countries. In Canada, we have car seats, helmets, harnesses, outlet covers, soft playgrounds for our kids. For adults there are also all kinds of other protections that form a safety net that protects us from chance or our own stupidity. For this family, there appear to be very few safety nets to catch them if they stumble. These people are Colombian fiddlers on the roof. At the street corners in Cali there are men who perform for change. In the 37 degree heat a man was dressed as a miner with green face paint. He mimed this mining motion with a fake shovel, I guess he had found these things and was putting them to use. Eliot’s sister gave him some change, and she did it willingly wishing him a good day and calling him senor. But he is completely depending on the grace of the car drivers in posh south Cali. In Buga, you see these women selling this bright red fruit called chontaduro It is a fruit from a palm tree that comes from an area called Buenaventura on the Pacific Coast about 120km from Cali. The area has descendants of slaves brought over from Africa . All of the sellers are black women in a city of modest businesses they are the most modest.
There is a certain precariousness to the existence of these people. It is a reality that I have never lived and one that I could never really understand unless I had to experience it. In Canada, we are protected from the threats posed by lack of food clothing and shelter and this sometimes tends to make us forget how precious and fragile life is. However, with all of our baby seats, and clothing and cars and decorator homes, life is fragile and all of that stuff will not protect us from the inevitable challenges and heartbreak that all of us will face as part of life.
My grandfather z’l evaded being drafted into the Russian army and came to Canada penniless around the time of the great depression. My brothers and I would tease him for his thriftyness. My grandmother z’l used to say once hungry never full. I think my grandfather z’l would have understood the reality of that Colombian family. I hope that through this travel experiences Eliot and I are embarking these couple of months I can understand a little bit better and maybe live a bit more.