Ice creams at the café

The weekend niece. from the book, Searching for treasures


The plazoleta                Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

   The Fonce River was a few blocks away from the San Gil’s Plaza. A steel bridge, painted yellow, crossed it where the highway to Piedecuesta and Bucaramanga, the Capital of the Department, entered the city by crossing the river. There, a block from the bridge and the city market was, El Terminalito, the short-distance buses terminal. The small bus or busetica from Barichara arrived here, as did the busetas from the other villages and settlements near San Gil.


     On occasion, when Dora’s uncles weren’t at their plantation at Barichara, her paternal grandparents would call Ines to ask for a favor. Would it be possible for them to receive Dora at her place for the weekend? Her grandmother was happy to oblige! How was she not to welcome her home, when Dora already had a special place in her heart? Sometimes, there were these certain      gestures of Dora’s. They reminded her so much of Dora’s mother. Both of you, so alike at this age of yours… my child! How quickly you left us… May you rest in peace… Ines would think at those times.


     Hanging up the phone, an antique she kept in mint condition, she would always remain pensive for a short while. But, Ines, with her kind of a character, that was tempered by red-hot fires, by the flames of the bad times she had endured and suffered when a young girl… was not prone to let herself fall into sad fits of pity. At least, not for more than a few minutes at that!

 


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Back from the market

The weekend niece. from the book, Searching for treasures


City Hall Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
City Hall                Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

   The entrance to the house was here. It was sheltered, from the sun and rains, by an overhang painted in the same blue color as the facade. It provided a generous shade during the mornings and the sunny afternoons, so typical of San Gil. At the same time, it was a dry spot for the passers-by during the rainy moments that occurred during part of the afternoons.
Without question, it was a cheery street, decorated with facades painted in their different hues of yellow, blue, and green. Many years later, Dora tried to run up it, as if she were still that untiring girl. Laughing at herself, she had to admit: I can’t do it anymore! But, what would you say if I told you that grandmother used to go up and down that street until her death, and she carried heavy bags of groceries from the market while she was at it!


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A house with a blue facade

The weekend niece. from the book, Searching for treasures


The lake Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
The lake              Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

   As you walked from the plaza, you could enjoy observing the old buildings of this quarter of the city and how the gradually climbed until they reached the bottom of Ines’ street. That’s where the final climb to her house initiated, challenging and ruggedly inclined. It seemed to defy the pedestrian and the daring cars, who could barely reach the half-way point before finding that’s as far as they could go!

     From that point on, the street was exclusively for those walking, the cars having to park in front of a wide-stepped barricade. Fourteen steps above, the street kept climbing until it reached a blue facade.

     The entrance to the house was here. It was sheltered, from the sun and rains, by an overhang painted in the same blue color as the facade. It provided a generous shade during the mornings and the sunny afternoons, so typical of San Gil. At the same time, it was a dry spot for the passers-by during the rainy moments that occurred during part of the afternoons.


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A steep climb of a street

The weekend niece. from the book, Searching for treasures


View of the city park Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
View of the city park
Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

     Her grandmother’s house was placed just a few blocks from San Gils’s Central Park. The park was small, yet fresh and welcoming. Bordered by restaurants and cafes that offered tables on the sidewalks, it was a perfect gathering point for the city dwellers. As the sun began to set, it would fill with people enjoying the evening and the cool temperature.

     But, what a steep climb to reach her house. That street, in particular, had steps carved into its sidewalks to facilitate the pedestrians ascending the abrupt slope and was a typical example of the ups and downs so emblematic of the city’s streets.

     Dora’s favorite spot, to spend the mornings in, was precisely at the beginning of the steep slope. Merrily, the hours passed, while engrossed in her own, private world she played enthused or read one of the books she invariably carried with her. It was undoubtedly her favorite place, in front of the house with the stylish yellow facade, sitting placidly on those red-tiled steps, so comfortable and so wide. The neighbors passing by would smile and say greet her warmly, for they knew the young girl’s situation very well.


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A grandmother called Ines

The weekend niece. from the book, Searching for treasures


Facades Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
Facades
Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

     In that easy-going city of abrupt ups and downs of its flagstone streets and its many-colored houses scattered among its hills, lived Inés, her maternal grandmother, who affectionately awaited her arrival. If on that particular weekend, it was her turn to spend it with her grandparents, she would take the small bus from San Gil to Barichara and arrive in another additional hour. There, it was just a short walk to her grandparent’s small coffee plantation. She would return Mondays, before dawn, settled into her seat, with her schoolbag converted into her pillow and her head resting upon it as she slept profoundly.

     Her grandmother Ines was, indeed, a very well-loved person in little Dora’s life. She understood her perfectly well and knew how to treat her as an individual. Never like a child, nor as a grownup, just like another person, always affectionate and with respect. Always cheerful and loving, her grandmother had gone through difficult times in her youth. She knew pain and sorrow, having experienced it personally, and was therefore perfectly capable of recognizing it in others. And, during that time, Dora was going through the irreparable loss of her mother, with whom she had kept such a close relationship ion those few years that barely had to share together. Ines, her grandmother, was that balsam of affection that together with time began to heal the tender girl’s unfortunate childhood.


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Little Dora

The weekend niece. from the book, Searching for treasures


Bicycle Guatape, Antioquia. Colombia
Bicycle
Guatape, Antioquia. Colombia

Dora was to be the first to adventure down those paths that led to discovering new, forbidden experiences. Since she was a child, she was daring and the architect of the escapes among the three inseparable friends. Dora acted out her role as the intellectual author of their mischief, Juanita performed as the leader of the group; she’d ensure their actual implementation. And the last of the three, Lina Marcela, happy and carefree was the one to enjoy them!

Because of her mother’s death and since she was very young, for various years, Dora had been sent to San Gil, a small city, and to Barichara, a small, quaint village, both in the Santander Department, in the north of the country. During the weekends and the holidays also, she would alternate between both of these two places. Her grandparents lived in Barichara and her maternal grandmother in San Gil City. Upon her mother’s death, her father fell into a deep melancholy, without end in sight. Desperately he sought refuge from his loss, burying himself in his work, and forgetting about himself, his daughter and the rest of the world.


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