Thursday, October 30, 2008

my shadow

Today after lunch I had two little friends accompany me on the walk up to my office on Campus Leahy: eight-year-old Fatima and her five-year-old brother (whose name is escaping me at the moment).   

While I'm a pretty big fan of most all the little kids in Carmen Pampa, I've been feeling especially kindred to Fatima lately--mostly because she's former UAC-CP volunteer Nathan Kensey's goddaughter and partly because I'm intrigued by her tender persona.  And I get the sense that Fatima seems to be quite fond of me as well; she follows me around so much I've taken to calling her mi sombra, my shadow.

Eight-year-old Fatima predicts she will be 17 when she graduates from high school.

We often see each other after lunch--around the time I'm going up to my office and Fatima's making the trek back to her house after school.  Today she spotted me as I headed toward the trail and asked if I was walking up.  "Vamos!" she said, when I told her that I was going arriba.

Walking along the first section of the path, we met Don Emilio, a Carmen Pampa local who was returning home, machete in hand, from the cemetery.  He had been cleaning the weeds and brush away from his wife's grave, preparing the cemetery for this weekend's todos los santos (All Saints).  As we bid Don Emilio goodbye and continued on our way, Fatima talked about the todos los santos traditions of making tantawawas and stopping by people's homes to pray for their deceased family members.

"Do you want to go to the cemetery?" she asked, as we passed the small piece of land just below the road where people from the community are buried.  "We can visit my grandma's grave."  I agreed and the three of us carefully made our way down the steep embankment.  Careful not to step on graves, we weaved around the three community members who were cleaning off the tombs of their dearly deceased.

A simple grave noted with a mound of dirt and a wooden cross.
We made several stops in the little cemetery.  We reminisced at a couple sites, remembering the people buried there.  We sighed at the little graves--several, really, considering the small number of people in Carmen Pampa.  And then we ended our visit at her grandmother's cement tomb.

"Do you miss her?" I asked, thinking especially of my own grandpa who died last week.  "Yes," she said matter-of-factly.  Her grandma died last December, two days after Christmas. Fatima's account of the details surrounding her grandmother's death both surprised and saddened me.  

"But I think she's in heaven," Fatima told me later as we continued our walk up the road, her brother trailing behind.  "Good people go to heaven and sinners go to the devil," she said.  "That is what my mom tells me.  ...and my grandma was a good person, so I know she's in heaven.  Her spirit will come back to visit in todos santos."  

As she talked on about spirits and God and death (and made seemingly random comments, like: "Your feet are so big!"  "Why are you so tall?" "How far away is Australia?"), I looked over with amazement at this blooming little character, my third-grade shadow.

When we parted ways on Campus Leahy--I to my office and Fatima off to her house ("to work in the field"), she asked if I know how to pray.  After some clarification, I recited, en espanol, the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.   Apparently impressed by my performance (or, at least, not disappointed), she extended an invitation for me to join her during todos santos, to visit peoples' homes and pray for the dead.  

"Come along with me," she encouraged.  "I will show you what to do."  And I smiled, realizing that I would be shadowing my little sombra.

Nathan, if you're reading this, Fatima wants to know when you're coming back to visit.  And, quite frankly, so do I!  Love from the campo, mate.

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