(These have been previously posted on Facebook...apologies to any readers who are getting a double dose!)
Going to get bread for the project in the slums is always a fun chore. First, one must avoid pigs and horses standing in front of the gate, as well as the brown feces that they so unthoughtfully left in the middle of the dirt road. Then, one must walk across the open square and ignore the crowds of cocaine junkies huddled in the shade of the soccer field's low brick wall. The "padaria" is located half-way down the most crowded drug road on this side of the slum, and the crush of dealers and purchasers can be overwhelming. Not to mention the children running underfoot, the women doing braids on the sidewalk, motorcyclists slowly weaving through the pedestrians and the odd junkie trying to sell some stolen goods for their next hit. (Classic: I am standing in line to buy my bread, and a shriveled wisp of a woman sneaks up beside me. "Wanna buy a breadmaker?" The dealer beside me, an oily teenager, laughed at her-"She don't want no breadmaker, she's gonna buy it fresh right now!")
This week, the lady behind the counter was showing me pictures of her grandson, just two or three months old. Dude beside me asks, "Well, why doesn't his momma bring him to visit?" We, good women, begin to explain to him why the dust and the marijuana smoke isn't good for a baby's lungs...but he doesn't seem too convinced. I shuffle away with 30 pieces of bread and a zillion clanging thoughts, narrowly missing being smacked in the face by a machine gun strapped to some skinny boy's back. I never did like crowds...
Standing in line at the overly crowded supermarket, watching elderly women create traffic jams in the produce section, I wondered at the usefulness of the child-sized shopping carts. Mindlessly gazing over to the aisles of imported foods, I struck up a casual conversation with the woman in front of me. She was carrying a heavy bag, and we argued as to who should go first in line...as I wasn't in a hurry, I think age and a couple pounds of meat and vegetables put her in t he favored spot. She smiled and shuffled down the street; I huffed and puffed over the price of croissants before going to the bank and the pharmacy. So it was kind of surprising to walk into my apartment building and see her holding the elevator door with a quizzical half-smile. It's a small world after all! We're neighbors, two floors removed!