Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Doña Leonor in Memoriam, 10th September 2007

I was a young man, of course I didn’t think so so at the time but I was, and as we came in for landing I remember feeling intimdated, the deeply green trees surrounding the first stretch of the runway ,and the wooden schacks lining the the outskirts of the AirPort, all seemed so foreign. The heavy Boewing touched down in Santafe de Bogota, Colombia. The AirPort was cluttered with heavily armed police and soldiers. The scents were those of dirt, of noice, dust, heat, machineguns and palm trees. This was in July 1993. I was a very long way from home.

I found a home though. After three months I moved in with a married couple in a house in a working class neighbourhood. The house was a rundown miracle. leaking trough badly during the regularly recurring deluges that turned the streets into rivers. The couple was Just a miracle. The house was situated at the foot of the Andes mountain ridge and the non heated water was freezing. I paid 50 $ a month for room and board.

Doña Leonors and Don Carlos were in their late 50:s. Their daughter who still lived at home left for Euorope. Doña Leonor was a glorious person, impossible not to fall in love with. She was very short, with a round weathered face, curious and sympathetic brown eyes, a girlish smile and a lot of points of view as to how I lived my life. There were specifically two things that worried her: My incessant smoking of the filterfree local cigarette brand Piel Roja, and my consumption of Agua Ardiente, the local booze. Many years earlier she had convinced her husband both to quit smoking and drinking. Doña Leonor was very much into healthy living and every morning she led a workout group of house wives in a local park. Her cooking basically consisted of vegatables without fat or salt, not the kind of food I preffered at the time. She would allways get up very early. When I got up she would give me coffe and a bowl of the colombian specialty - Changua Con Silantro. A rather special speciality that took me a while to get used to, but when I did, I learned to love it. Sort of like the anarchic, noicy and chaotic city I lived in. It took a while, but eventually it grew on you.

In the evenings I would sit in the kitchen and play guitar as Doña Leonor was washing up after dinner. I’d play the songs I loved. Her favourite was “Este es un nuevo día” by Argentinian songwriter Facundo Cabral. Or she would keep us company while I and Don Carlos played chess. Doña Leonor was a simple woman in the best sense. She was a force of good. Her hands were big and brown after so many years of hard work and so was her heart. For six months she prepared my food, washed my clothes, listened to my guitar and worried about my drinking. And made me feel a lot less lonely.

I met Doña Leonor and Don Carlos a few months ago when they came to visit their newest grandson. We talked and had a cup of coffe and Doña Leonor asked me if I still was drinking too much. It was good to see them.

Doña Leonor died a week ago at age 71, leaving her husband and four children. You are dearly missed. Sleep tight, beautiful lady.

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