Un Nuevo Amigo

As we sat at a table in La Cuchara de San Marcos with our new friend, Pablo Salme, the sun setting over the awe inspiring Andes, he told us why he chose to help us that day.

Here is a translation of Pablo Salme’s words:
“When I see that you are happy, it makes me happy. Then when you see that I am happy, you are happy too. This is a heart to heart connection, and the world needs more of these. So many wars could have been avoided if there were more connections like this. We have the power to make peace, right here, right now, in our lives.”

It was three in the afternoon, and my group of five was packed into a bus in Quito, Ecuador, on our way to our next objective. All the fellows were participating in a “drop off” activity. Each group was given five dollars and the names of 7 locations to find in the city, before they met for dinner at La Cuchara in four hours time. So there we stood on the bus. Our eyes nervously darted around at the strangers who stared in awe at this strange group of gringos clutching their bags to their chests.

At this point we were just glad to have made it onto the bus. After one of our group members got smashed in the closing doors, and we watched another team get separated simply for hesitating for an extra second on the platform, this was a grand accomplishment. We had been warned that there were pickpockets searching for groups just like us so with targets on our backs, and no personal space, we hurtled down the streets of Quito with no idea which stop was ours.

Assuming that we were close, our group exited the bus and found ourselves scanning the crowd for someone who could point us in the right direction. We approached a joyful looking man standing alone waiting for his bus. The man informed us that we were in fact about seven stops from our destination, but that he also was headed in that same direction. After offering to inform us when our stop neared, we pushed our way into the mass of Ecuadorians together. Next thing I knew we were rushing off the bus at the correct stop, but now with a sixth team member. We learned his name was Pablo Salme and that he is an architect in Quito. To our surprise this man offered to help us find our final 3 objectives.

To cut straight to the point, Pablo did not simply help us find the locations on our list, he did so much more. As I conversed with this man in broken Spanish I came to understand the passion he had for his city. The buildings around me turned from objectives to blessings and lessons. He explained the beauty of old architecture and the stories that came with them. I was told legends of a devil building a church, and a woman who took her own life to save a city from crushing earthquakes. I learned that the seven crosses placed throughout Quito are laid out based on the Chakras in our bodies. I came to see this city not for the never-ending rows of vendors shouting at passers by, but for the passion and love in the hearts of those who live here.

As I watched my friend walk out the door of La Cuchara I thought about the family that was anxiously awaiting his arrival. I thought about his ten year old son who would meet him at the door, and his wife who would greet him with a kiss. I got to spend three hours with Pablo Salme. He navigated miles of city streets, menacing mountains of stairs, and conversation with some 18 year olds from the US, speaking a strange mix of Spanish and English. He never received a single cent for those three hours, and when we arrived at our destination exhausted and ready for un jugo de fruta fresca, he turned around and walked right back across the city. He might never know the impact he had on my life, and the way I see the world. But, he will be carried in my heart wherever I go. Muchas gracias Pablo. Muchas gracias por todo.

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Bennett Quintard