Thanks to all of you who participated in the Worldwide Day of Giving! It was amazing. So many great stories from all over…pictures and even video from some people! I received a lot of emails from people who said that they tried, but just couldn’t do it. It was too far out of their comfort zone. That’s ok. You tried. Keep trying.
I also received lots of emails from people who want to continue doing this every 15th of the month…what a great idea. Feel free to continue to post your stories here or on Facebook WHENEVER you pay it forward. I will remind everyone on July 15th for those who want to give it another try!
A lot of you have asked how the DC Meet-Up went. I was so happy to see so many former recipients, followers of the blog, people I only knew from their comments, and even people who had received $10 from someone on the Worldwide Day of Giving that then joined us at the happy hour. All the local news stations were also there. I will try to get links for all the media from that day, including the two earlier interviews I did that day on News Channel 8 and CNN.
I am excited to write about my recipients for today’s post. As my trip was winding down in Manizales, I started to get sad as the trip was coming to an end. The day before I left I was in the Guacas area where I was staying getting ready for a barbecue that Roberto Gonzalo was organizing. About 10 minutes up (literarily up the mountain) there is a small store that has some billiard tables and a TV for neighborhood people to come together. Roberto Gonzalo and I had stopped by there on a few occasions and bought items we needed or enjoyed a beer at the end of the day. This night I thought I would go and get to know them and see what they would do with my $10.
I left the gated area of the plantation and started to ascend up the mountain. I can’t convey to you how steep this hill is. The store is only about 200-250 yards away, but it is a workout to get there. Pinto the dog escaped and was at my side as I lift one leg in front of the other. My heart starts to pound and sweat is rolling off my forehead. I stop for about a minute to catch my breath. The altitude adds another level of complexity at 7,000 feet. Pinto knows the way and he runs on ahead of me as I crest the incline and see the store off to the left..
The store is owned by Adriana and Augusto who live upstairs with their seven-year-old daughter. I had seen them a few times while I was on my trip. Augusto was always out front working on something; cutting wood on the lathe, welding some metal, working on a car, etc. Adriana tends to the store and their daughter.
It is a holiday weekend and many people have traveled leaving the store void of the usually two or three locals chatting about the election or the upcoming World Cup. I find Augusto leaning over a table that has a large metal door laying flat on top of it. Clad with goggles he wields a welding torch with his right hand along one of the edges of the metal door. He gives me a wave and I walk toward Adriana who is sitting outside at a table with her daughter.
By this time Augusto had retired the blow torch and had walked over to the table. We made some small talk and then I told them about my project. I sat down and shared with them the journey that has become my passion over the past six months.
Adriana, who is 28, tells me that the store has been there for as long as she can remember. It has been in the family for years. She manages the store and also makes homemade morcilla which she sells in the city. Morcilla is a type of sausage that is made by cooking blood from pigs, cows, goats, etc then adding a filler such as rice until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. I was introduced to morcilla when I lived in Valladolid, Spain. Although it is quite tasty, I usually try not to think about what goes into it.
Augusto is the Colombia version of MacGyver. Every time I would see him he was fixing something. He is an industrial mechanic by trade, but he is a skilled woodworker, metalworker, carpenter, plumber, auto mechanic, etc. He even likes to do car detailing. The 32-year-old builds more in a week than I have in my entire life. I asked him what the door was for and he said that the local prison had contracted him to make 12 doors for them. I would think they would contract those sort of things with large companies, but “MacGyver” has a good reputation and the work flows his way.
A former police officer, he made the career change after being sent to the tension stricken border area between neighboring Ecuador. “It was too dangerous for me,” he states “and I like to work with my hands.”
Adriana said something to her daughter and she disappeared into the store. Pamela had been sitting patiently at the table the entire time that we spoke. She reappeared minutes later and walked over to me and placed a cold bottle of the local beer, Poker, on the table next to me. That is just the kind of hospitality that people grow up with here. She smiled and went back to her chair.
I wanted to find out more about how Adriana and Auguto met. Adriana told me about how they had actually known each other almost all their lives. In fact, they even dated when they were teenagers, but later separated. They reconnected years later and married.
Augusto had several questions about the Year of Giving. We talked about how it got started, my family, and some of the other people I have met along the way. I explained that they could look up the blog online, but they didn’t have internet access. There is another small store about 100 yards away that has a computer where you can pay to surf the web. I mentioned that they could go and look it up there. Maybe they will do that.
I offered them either dollars or pesos. Augusto said he would prefer dollars. “For now I think I’ll keep it as a reminder of us meeting each other.” I only had one ten dollar bill with me and it was really beat up. I placed it in his hand and told him that I would stop by the next day on my way to the airport and give him one in a little better shape. He nodded as if to say that was ok, but not necessary.
We wrapped up our conversation. I paid for the beer and bought a few more to take to the barbecue. As I headed down the driveway and turned onto the dirt road to make the journey down the mountain, Pinto appeared out of nowhere. I had completely forgotten that he had accompanied me on the journey. It was now pitch dark out and the lack of street lighting makes the walk down the mountain slightly challenging, although I’ll take walking down the mountain in the dark over walking up the mountain any day. Especially with Pinto by my side, he knows the way.
The next day as we left for the airport, I hopped out of the jeep to make good on my word about exchanging the ten dollar bill. Augusto and his family were sitting at a table eating lunch. “I have been thinking a lot about your project today” he said. “It’s really amazing.” We switched the $10 and said “until the next time.”