1,000 miles: step 58|Speak Spanish?


“You have a call,” the librarian tells me. I raise my eyebrow, confused. At the other end a woman’s voice thanks me for sharing my computer “knowledge,”and the conversation is over too soon.

I place back the desk phone and rush over to once again meet a woman I’ve never seen before. My new student comes to me, small and eager. I can tell by the look on her face that she is wondering about something. I decide that my answer will be yes as asks: “Do you speak Spanish?” I grin, “Sí, yo hablo español.”

She is glad. She speaks quickly, telling me it’s been 10 years since she heard from her sister, and I nod, trying to piece together what she’s expecting from me. She doesn’t have her phone number, or her address, yet alone an e-mail address. She has a paper and pencil and writes several names. At the very top, her sister’s full name and her children’s names. She is hoping that el internet, the internet, has some record of them.

Social media might have, I tell her. We navigate with search buttons.

We go down through the list, failing to find matches and I apologize when a name is similar, but is from México, Argentina, Colombia, Perú… instead of Bolivia. I tell her that names on social media can change, and women’s last names change too. We even come across the profile of a young woman with public photos of what seems like her recent marriage–she’s wearing a white wedding dress, she smiles, her head at an angle, in the arms of the groom.

It delights me when we later come across the best hope of reaching her sister, a possible niece, a teen girl who lives in Bolivia. I remind her that this may or may not be her sister’s daughter, that that shouldn’t deter her, sometime, she’ll catch onto the internet on her own.

Admitting that she can’t type, she writes her message on paper and pencil for me. She watches me type. It’s not the first time my skinny, long fingers, with their steady tapping,  have been so closely watched.

I hit Send. Our lesson is soon over.

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