The longest I ever went to any one school was for 4 years, in fact, excluding my life after marriage, that is the longest I had ever lived in one country consecutively, Guatemala. I was in the Maya School from 8th to 11th grade; the High School consisted of 8th- 12th grade and had maybe 120 students. You knew everyone, not only knew them, you were friends, you knew their siblings, parents, had been to their houses, it was inevitable. Of the 120 students, 90% were foreigners. Our parents worked for one of the Embassies, Consulates, the UN, Charity or Multinational Company. We were multi-cultural, all races, religions, ethnicities, backgrounds, socio-economic levels, as different as you could imagine, we all had one thing in common: we were alone. We didn’t have cousins, or extended families, we didn’t have lifelong friends, or people we knew from the neighborhood, we had just arrived to this country because it was our parents job. That meant one thing: school was everything, and as for me, the friendships I made during those years are unforgettable.
Last Friday, I got an e-mail at work, one of our schoolmates had been very ill, and the e-mail asked that we all keep her in our thoughts and prayers; I sent the e-mail out to out the classmates that I thought would be interested, at 9:36 my friend Kike (a nick name for Enrique) replied from his blackberry. He remembered our school mate well, as we rode the bus together and said he would pray for her and her family in this difficult time. He then sent me hugs and that was it. He was killed by a thief while he sat in his car at 10:00 am, they took his watch, wallet and his cell phone, he was 35, he left behind a young wife and a baby girl.
At least three times a week Kike would come by my house after school, we would play video games, listen to CD’s (they were brand new back then) our we would walk to a nearby strip mall to buy candy or a soda. He had his eye on a pair of black Fila tennis shoes, that were the bomb back in the day, and we would walk all the way to Metro 15 (a mall) and look at them, ask their price, he would try them on and then we would walk home. On our way there he would tell me what he had heard the older guys say about me (his brother was a couple of years older) which to me was invaluable, he taught me how to give a hickie, we practiced on each other forearms, he taught me how to spit (don’t ask), we practiced flicking cigarettes across the street, and tried to make rings of smoke, as we laughed and coughed. I will never forget the day he showed up at my house with the money to go by those shoes, he was so excited! We walked briskly to the Mall; he clunked down his 500 Quetzals’, which in those days was about $70, a pretty penny. He had a big ole smile and his face as he laced them up and wore them out of the store. It was starting to get dark as we walked home, I could still see his smile but mostly I remember how he walked tall the whole way.