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It is three odd hours since I heard the news. The time is almost 7 a.m. and I have given up trying to sleep for the night. The sun has not arisen and the darkness is evident. So much like my current mood.
I only heard of your passing through a conversation on Facebook chat. I have looked at some pictures and condolence messages on your profile. It occurred under two weeks ago but I had no idea it transpired. The messages posted by your friends are beautifully written. I hope I can write something that can match those words. I see your passing has affected so many people. While I only know a very small selection of your friends, the pain is
You are the second friend to have departed during the last nineteen months. Both times, I have 'heard' the bad news through Facebook. However, you are the first friend who has passed away from my travels.
Having an eidetic memory is handy recalling the following instances. You were the first person I met at the hostel in Argentina. From speaking to you in Spanish at the entrance to following you to reception is the first memory I will recall. From you telling me my booking had been cancelled due to my late arrival from missing my connection in Madrid. It did not take long for you to rectify the situation and get me a room. I was so thankful and I slept as soon as I was on the bed.
Returning to Buenos Aires from Iguazu, I recall your concern at my well being. Having my backpack stolen there and nursing a swollen ankle from mosquito bites; I remember you taking time to listen. From asking about the thief's description to offering advice, I was very thankful.
Recovering over the next few days, taking time to rest my ankle and sit in a deckchair on the terrace. I remember you offering me a few smokes on a cigarette and that you were cooling off in a paddling pool in the hot temperatures. You sitting there, eye closed, head back with a smile. There was 'no weight on your shoulders' and that image has stayed with me.
On my second visit in August, in cold temperatures, I was told you had left your job at the hostel. After a few days, I asked David to bring you here or I could see you elsewhere. So after finishing work, David made me accompany him back to your place. It was good to see you. Just chatting felt so easy as I admired your work on the terrace. Posing for pictures together, you said you reassembled Tom Sawyer with a rake in your hand. Who am I to argue and I was very happy we got a picture together.
Fast forward a few months and my journey had taken me to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. I was torn at whether to see Paraguay after Salta, Argentina or just go into Chile. As I met many friends on the same route and a lot decided to be in Buenos Aires for Christmas, I followed suit. Unfortunately, in my four days I barely met up with any of them. Still today, I am unsure of why. Until today, I chastised my decision to miss out Paraguay. However, as we met during that time, I no longer look at the visit to Buenos Aires as a mistake. It was to be the last time we would meet and I am so glad the opportunity was taken.
I told you what a great gesture you gave to my friend, Susan. She had a bag stolen at the entrance of the hostel on Christmas Eve. Still, I am not sure how you came about to help her. Your support in accompanying her to the Police Station and translation skills were essential. It kept her upbeat during the festive times. She, like I, are ever so grateful to you. Your response: “Its a cycle. If I help, someone else will help down the road.” Even the offer of a beer was not taken by you. You were content at just helping.
In the last two years, I have travelled constantly for 90% of the time. If I seemed aloof during this time, I certainly never meant to be. Keeping in contact regularly was not an option. In certain areas like Peru, New Zealand, Australia and Laos, there was not any Internet access.Yourself, like David, Wendy, Tomas, Santiago and the Chilean worker, stick in my mind constantly. How friendly and welcoming you were, are 'benchmarks' of how people should be. In addition to David, you welcomed me into your home and that speaks volumes of your character.
I am in a lot of shock and in a lot of pain at this moment. Even though we barely knew each other, I feel proud having met you.
Goodbye, my friend.