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Seeking Saúl: An American…

Seeking Saúl: An American Mother's Journey to Colombia

by Rebecca Thatcher Murcia

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 148399368X, Paperback)

We were last together in public as a family when the Colombian soccer team squared off against David Beckham’s English squad at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. My husband, Saúl, sang along to the Colombian national anthem. “Good germinates in the furrows of pain,” Saúl whispered from his wheelchair, his formerly athletic body both shrunken and swollen, as a few tears coursed down his high cheekbones. A few days later, my beloved husband died of a rare and rapacious cancer, leaving me with our two young boys and no idea how to go it alone or keep Saúl alive in their memory. Saúl was dedicated to his career as an administrator for the Mennonite church in the United States. But he was always fiercely devoted to his homeland and his family, the majority of whom still lived on or near the family farm down in South America. After discovering a cache of letters that Saúl had written about his childhood when he was first diagnosed with cancer, I thought of a way to celebrate Saúl’s life – and to transform our own. We left our comfortable, middle-class existence in Pennsylvania to spend a year living near Saúl’s boyhood home in La Mesa, Colombia. I wanted my boys to understand their father better by experiencing life the way he experienced it at their age; I wanted my sons to walk in their father’s footsteps. What followed was a momentous year—filled with the unexpected—during which we struggled to adapt to new schools and a new way of life. From the first days when Mario, then 10, announced, “I don’t want to go back to school tomorrow,” to my attempts to remain sane as I stone-washed our clothes and faced bewildering options in the local farmer’s market, it was a journey that exhausted us and thrilled us and changed us forever. We learned the intricacies of managing a complicated and byzantine neighborhood water delivery “system.” We traced Saúl’s steps, some of which he carefully chronicled in his eloquent, autobiographical letters—excerpts of are included. We wound up creating our own Colombian legacy in ways that surprised us. I figured out how to make our favorite coffee blond brownies from raw sugar produced on Saúl’s parents’ farm, and the boys sold the brownies to raise money for the barrio soccer team. We went from our gritty neighborhood on the south side of La Mesa to the wide boulevards of Bogotá and to the beaches of Cartagena. Shortly after our arrival, Saúl’s cousin and long-time high-school soccer buddy, Miguel, took us to the main Bogotá stadium to see the Colombian team play Brazil. It was amazing to hear 43,000 Colombians repeat the words Saúl had whispered two years earlier: “Good germinates in the furrows of pain.” For the first time since Saúl died, I could imagine him smiling down on us as we cheered his beloved team. A week later, I felt the same way as my children paddled a small inflatable boat down the river that borders Saúl’s boyhood farm. Of course the year was not easy. Mario found fifth grade at his private school to be incredibly demanding for an American 11-year-old with limited Spanish. Gabriel struggled with homesickness and appeared to have contracted dengue fever on one particularly frightening day. We returned to the United States after a year away, fluent not only in Spanish but in Colombian culture and the norms and mysteries of Saúl’s peasant family. We embraced Saúl’s legacy to us. We also learned how to say goodbye.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:36 -0400)

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