Corongo is a place where very few people go, and everyone wants to leave. The road through Corongo goes nowhere else, and curves back to the main mountain highway after three hours of slow driving. People ask for a ride, not wanting to wait for the Thursday morning bus — the only opportunity of gettin out. For those without money, or a reason to live, beer is their way out — a ticket to oblivion, if only for a while.
On my walk to the prominent white church, looming over town in a protective yet slightly damning way, I run into an old lady sheepherder. She wears a soiled traditional dress and slumps over to the left from always carrying heavy loads on her right.
We make eye contact and I say “Hello.” She seems to carefully consider something, then steps into the trail and turns to face me. I stop.
“Where are you from?”
She looks insecure.
“It’s a country in Europe, on the other side of the ocean.”
She looks up to the sky.
“Sometimes I see long stripes in the air. Is that how you came here?”
“Yes I did. Those are airplanes…”
“Airplanes, I know.”
I think she has heard the word before, but doesn’t quite understand the concept.
“They’re just like the bus, only they fly,” I explain.
Her face changes from confusion to confidence.
“You must be very rich.” She says.
“Oh, not really. When we work in Europe, we get paid a lot. Bread costs 10 cents here, but it’s 2.00 there, so they need to pay us more.”
“I see. Do you speak a different language?”
“Yes, but it’s not very pretty.”
“Say something anyway.”
I do, and she lights up like a child. She thanks me but it is me who’s grateful.