Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Chilean Blast From the Past: Roy

He wouldn’t shut up about Texas. I kept using this word passion to infuse everything I did. We were miles apart, geographically and symbolically, and we both made our decision before we ever met: we wouldn’t exactly be the best friends.

Arriving in Chile, tensions increased. He’d read a couple of my pre-departure blogs and grew more convinced he wouldn’t like me: too much uninformed passion When he picked me up from the airport looking aloof and wearing goofy slippers that should have never left the house that rainy day, I knew as well, Roy Pequeno and I were two men who would never get along: he was a tool.

Months later, we would sit down in our living room regularly over a plate of Spicy Spagetti and a dubbed episode of “24” or some other quality programming. Besides the turkey sandwich and eggs (both of which we lavished with hot sauce), Spaghetti was about all we made. There, in the simplicity of our house we would sit, reminiscing about the past, talking about life and the funny stories of the day, every once in a while pausing to shout at the TV or pull a prank on Natalie. The hate we shared for each other before August lasted all of about 1 day… ok, and maybe one other day in December when I surprised the group and showed up early from language school- sorry! But really, I never could have imagined back in July that Roy would not only become my roommate, but a role model and a close friend as well.

In Chile, I was nothing short of worthless. My Spanish stunk, I was jobless, and I felt vulnerable and truth be told, in over my head and afraid. My whole community was wonderful and supportive, but, it was Roy who read through the lines and helped me keep my head above water, and to do it with dignity no less. It was Roy who sat next to me on community nights and joined me in hushed jokes. It was Roy who went with me on a house visit or to this place or that when my confidence was shot and I struggled to be my own man. Again and again, it was Roy, in the most subtle of ways that kept my spirits up. He had a way of supporting me, carrying me really, but in a way that allowed me to maintain my dignity and pride. It was a unique gift, one I pray for the grace to receive. And through his example, it was Roy who helped form me into the servant I am today.

It’s in the way I try and speak the language with a local zest (fresco man). It’s in the way I interact with the kids. And in the ways I now deal in a healthy way with the stress that overwhelmed me in Chile. Roy taught me that a hot oil incense burner and a little bit of silence and journaling can go a long way in maintaining your sanity when all the forces around you are attempting to destroy it.

I laugh about our quest, seen on Youtube, to kill the rat that invaded our house. I laugh about the stupid pranks we pulled, mainly on Nat and Michelle because no one messed with Caitlin or Ryan. Cait just because she was Cait and she was too nice and you felt like crap. And Ryan, he’d get us back 10 fold. Long live the time we cut the electricity and ran into Nat’s room dressed in black and with flashlights swinging everywhere!And I laugh when I think about the two of us walking to the neighborhood fast food cart, simultaneously shouting to no avail at our three legged dog who insisted on crossing the street without looking. Never mind the fact that is how he became three legged Jack in the first place.

When you first think about community, you obsess on the possibilities of what can go wrong. Personality clashes, detestable people and the like. You never imagine it’ll somehow become your rock when everything that was supposed to go right goes wrong. And what’s more, you never imagine the guy you thought you’d detest most is the guy you’ve since strived PASSIONATELY to resemble most… other than the ridiculous pony tail and absurd talk about Texas!

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