Sunday, February 5, 2012


Multicolored lights hung from the branches of every old oak tree in the courtyard last night and the thumping rhythm of salsa and merengue filled the air until the wee hours. Partnered dancing with steps has always intimidated me, but especially in a town with an influx of amazing dancers from across Latin America. Not last night, though. I danced and danced in that magical, uninhibited way until my feet blistered against the straps of my sandals. I didn't notice until this morning. Everyone genuinely appreciated everyone else- sincere smiling, laughing, hugging, and dancing. We were there to celebrate the life of our friend and colleague who passed away suddenly last week at the age of 31. Proceeds of the benefit will go to send him back to his native Guatemala for a proper burial and to support his family back home, particularly his young daughter. I will miss his contagious smile, messages written in Portuguese (we were both trying to learn), and the way he greeted me as an old friend whenever he saw me. Though our department is grieving, people came out en masse yesterday, pitching in their decorating, cooking, baking, home-brewing, musical, and dancing skills. Everyone contributed, and yesterday turned into a celebration of life, friendship, and community. The beauty of it all caught up with me- one of those moments where you pause and acknowledge how grateful you are for the air in your lungs. 

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