I was indeed wearing a shirt I got from volcano boarding in Nicaragua that said just that on the back and I could sense I was going to be asked for something. Likely money, and I didn’t flinch, just sat peacefully ignoring the guy. This is by far the first time I’ve been singled out as having an abundance of cash to give away being the obvious outsider.
However he kept talking and pulled up a piece of cement about four feet from me. Enough to stay out of my bubble, close enough to know he wasn’t talking to anyone else. For the next hour I would answer any questions with no more than a yes or no and never made eye contact for the first fifty-nine minutes. It’s in this hour that James David Gonzalez would unload on me his entire life story.
Senior Gonzalez was a living side effect of the enforced laws of the new Trump administration, he was now forty years old and had lived in the USA since he was five. Both parents having moved illegally into the USA, he had a Colombian birth certificate and a USA passport. He had spent most of his life in California living a pretty standard American lifestyle.
David, as he preferred to be called, had made a few wrong turns in life and was currently on his third DUI. David had a problem with the bottle and despite completing the twelve step alcoholics anonyms program he had not fully kicked the habit.
Once given his third DUI he was also given a choice; five years in an American prison or one year in his birth country where he’d have is passport taken away on exit and returned after one year. He choose what he thought would be an easy year in Colombia.
It’s seems the choices may have in fact been lateral.
He was two months in, starving, broke, lost, lonely and depressed. At one point in my life I had been all of these except starving, so I was starting to feel for the guy a little. He went on about how fuking terrible Colombia was, how he’d been robbed sleeping in the streets, how crazy the people were who had nothing to lose, how he was unable to find a job, how he felt he had no skills that we’re usable in Colombia outside of maybe that he spoke two languages. Having just come off of three days of diving in the beautiful national park waters, we could not have had a
different perspective on things right now.
David was used to a system where if you asked for help you got it, he learned this in A.A., food, clothing, shelter, etc. David I could sense had problems before and they were now being amplified as he was out of his comfort zone. I shrugged off his request for money & food several times until his about his fifteenth request where I said I'd buy him dinner later, naturally he didn’t believe me.
Fifty-five minutes in and about two pages from me knowing his entire autobiography, he got considerable more emotional. He then broke down step by step how he would use the money; 1600 peso for the bus, about $0.75, so he could get to the next city to drop off one of two resumes he had in his hands. Another 2000 pesos, about $0.90 for something to eat. Basically he had spent the last hour selling me on the idea of giving him a little under two dollars. At this point it became incredibly clear he wasn’t trying to screw me.
I said “What? I was going to buy you dinner for much more than $2 why not just take the food?”. With tears in his eyes and a crack in his voice he turned to hard begging and explained he’d rather the bus then the meal as he might have a better chance finding a job
in the next biggest city and was pretty used to going without food.
So I said “Ok fuck, wait here I'll come back with 4000 pesos”. He was pretty sure I wasn’t coming back and offered to come with. I said “Yeah right, this is still Colombia”. I left as though I needed to go get some money from my campsite. I walked around the corner and bought a baguette and water for him and a cookie for me. Put 6000pesos in the food bag, walked back a different route and gave it all to him. He hugged me, thanked me and explained that if he survived a year he planned to write a book about it.
He then turned and asked what he could do for me? It was an eerie sense of desperation I could feel in his voice. I felt like this was the moment when desperate people were then available to walk away feeling helped or taken completely advantage of, based on who did them what favor.
All I asked was to see his resume, memorized his email and told him to look for sales jobs as he would absolutely crush at it.
He said it was just his honest desperation and with that we parted ways.
I've met a number of misplaced people over the various countries.
On this trip I have now met a young man from America who’s parents that had been living in the USA for twenty years without proper documents and were sent back to Mexico. He was given the option to stay in the USA at fifteen as he had a passport, however he would be alone and essentially orphaned. So he moved with his parents back to Mexico. He knew nothing of Mexico, did not speak Spanish and was made fun of in school and was unable to make friends, he was utterly depressed.
I also met a man who’s home had been taken from him by the British Colombian government in a effort to build the multi-billion dollar Site C dam project. They would be flooding his property in the coming years with the dam and gave him an assed dollar value for the property. Not an option to move, a dollar figure for what he would be getting. When I met him his wife had recently passed away and his home was being destroyed by the Canadian government. He too was feeling a bit lost and depressed. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him I had bought shares in a company that would be helping develop that project. That company has since went bankrupt and I lost my investment…
Will see how David makes out.
I'm going to send David him an email in 11months and see if I hear back from him...
Jdgonzalez1976@gmail.com if you want to email & send him money.