A Day in San Bernardo


Don Carlos, the professional classical guitarist from whom I rented a room in Medellín, asked if I would feed the five tortugas in the atrium paradise under the lime tree and bougainvillea, and then accompany him in singing Renaissance music. We spent the afternoon learning lullabies and laments, and after much digging through ancient sheet music, he found the treasured García Lorca song arrangements. 

Hoy siento en el corazón
un vago temblor de estrellas
y todas las rosas son
tan blancas como mi pena.

(Today I sense in my heart
a vague tremor of stars
and all roses are
as white as my sorrow.)

Later, the boisterous Bostonian also living in the house, Barry, cooked another Navidad-style banquet while venting about his new Colombian girlfriend, Estelle, who complains that he drops by unannounced. “Fuera!” Astrid suggested that if it was this bad now it would only get ten times worse. Ron and lime and risa and Joshua’s vocab index cards accented the already lively meal. Astrid began her anecdotes with enthusiastic “Ah”s or pedantic “Pues…” New words and phrases passed around like the lobster soufflé and Astrid’s homemade gooseberry wine: ‘to cleave’, ‘threshold’, ‘We are all fertile but none as fertile as I!’ (boomed Carlos), ‘badly-tied knot.’ They all cheered me on to entertain them with “silly” Chinese, and after my performance, Carlos encored, “If I have one more drink I’ll be speaking Chinese!”

Instead, he left to go pick up Gabriel Jaime, Astrid’s 88-year-old father who spoke a calculated yet exuberant English due to his only liking to read in his second language. Stoic but far from humorless, Gabriel Jaime was clearly the respected patron of the table. At me he winked, “I…am beginning…to…to fall in love…with…this one.” And Carlos couldn’t be more delighted and his bride Astrid, more beautiful, and Barry more quirky. At one point Barry started speaking French with Carlos. Gabriel Jaime looked at Barry and Barry respectfully at the fascinating old man who reprimanded him, “It is…my hope…that we can now…change the subject…to one…more suitable…for every…guest and hostess…alike.” But it was a gracious exchange and the embarrassed American made a bad joke and Carlos guffawed at the attempt to “cover his shame”, and we went on trying to translate ‘crème brûlée’ into Spanish as we sipped out-of-this-world Colombian coffee.

I never expected to actually be part of an evening centered on words and a love for them in themselves. I felt too so much love for my Colombian family and for God. Joshua and I stayed up late revisiting funny travel moments and reading the bible. We fell asleep happy. Thank the good Lord for his ways and his creatures and how he connects us in his own sweet time, and for Lectio Divina, the reason for being here and the most delectable gift.


©2012, Amaya Engleking


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