I SAY HELLO, YOU SAY GOODBYE”
It is too early in the morning for me. Even so, since I have to go to work, I am reluctantly getting ready to go to my first class of the day. As I step out into the street, the only person I see is the young lady next door who is always out washing down her part of the sidewalk at this early hour.
Our narrow street is tree-lined and silent. The fog swirls, and the damp thickens the atmosphere. Not a single car around yet so I just walk casually down the middle of the street.
As I turn the corner towards the main street, my round of hello’s is about to begin. This is the route I take every day.
Jose’ who spent all night on the street as a guardian calls out a cheery ” Buenos Dias”. He doesn’t rise from the chair he occupied during the dark hours. Another Jose’, also a street guy, always comments on the weather as I pass by. “Hace Frio, hoy, no?” “It’s cold today, right?” He always calls me tio or uncle.
The lady pushing a cart, whose name I don’t know and who I see virtually in the same place everyday, calls out another greeting . Down further, Esteban, another street person, waves and calls out, “Que Tal?”or “What’s up?” A guard at the ambassador’s residence also nods a friendly greeting as I go by.
Every day the same people in the same place. Morning.Afternoon. Evening. Not only here, but also in other parts of the little town where I live, a subburb of Lima called Barranco. As I go about my day, going to work, walking to the store and so on, there is something reassuring about this consistency. I reflect that I am also part of this everyday scene as I make my way to the main street where I will flag down a taxi to my work. Actually, my routine is just as consistent. Five years have gone by since I arrived here, and I still frequently see the same people going about their business in the same place.
And then I reflect that I really have two very different lives : the Peruvian and the expatriate. One of the main differences is that in my Peruvian life I am always saying hello to the same people, and in my expatriate life– my American acquaintenances— I am always saying goodbye. They come, at the most for a few years, and then say goodbye.
Right now, I am going through a whole series of goodbyes from my expatriate friends. Some are like the birds. They fly to follow the sun. Others come for a while, intending to stay, run out of money, and return to the U.S. Still others have jobs that move them from place to place. Whatever the reason, there is constant movement from this group.
Once I was one of the itinerant ones… always on the move. Now I am content to have my everyday round of hellos from the people in my community.