Chico Lindo, Hombre Excepcional

That is the title of the essay I just finished writing about my host brother in Chapod, Ezequial.  Literally translated it means “beautiful boy, exceptional man” but that doesn’t quite transmit the full meaning of the title, for that I need to give you an explanation of the word “lindo” as used in Chile.  Lindo is generally translated as “beautiful” along with bonito, hermoso, and bella, but they don’t all mean exactly the same thing.  In my experience I’ve never heard a hot girl described as “linda” here.  It represents a deeper kind of beauty and is most often used to describe landscapes, nature, poetry or abstract ideas—also cute babies.  Think of that scene in Mr. Holland’s Opus when they’re signing/singing the song “Beautiful Boy,” and you get some better insight into the way I’m trying to describe Ezequial.


Ezequial is thirteen and he is at once a boy—who could literally play soccer all day, who laughs all the time, who wants to be the mayor, who wanted to beat his dad at Set and eat the chocolate chip cookies we taught them to make before they were cooled, and who smiled so big when Chile beat Argentina in soccer—and a man—who knows so much about everything, who spent his day off from school chopping down trees with his father for extra cash and came home with his back doubled over in pain, who anticipates what his mother will need before she asks, who leads his classmates and takes initiative, whose greatest fear is that something will happen to leave his family without him to take care of them. 


I felt connected to him immediately.  I fell in love with him a profound way (not a romantic way).  I taught him to play frisbee, and he pretended to think I was good at soccer.  With more force than I want any of the things I want for myself in life, I want him to go to college, because he is so smart and so caring and he would do something amazing with his education because he would value it more than I’ll ever be able to.  I tried to tell him how amazing I think he is.  I tried to squeeze as much affirmation and encouragement into one week as I could, but for what?  His mom wants to see him achieve his dreams, but because of the cost I don’t know how realistic higher education is for him, beyond the mechanic degree he’ll get from the technical high school he was just accepted to.  I don’t know if encouraging him is helpful, or is the fostering of a false hope, building him up just so he can be disappointed.  I don’t know how high school in the city will change him.  I struggled immensely all week with many similar questions.


I left Chapod three days ago and I miss him.  His last words to me as I released him from a fierce goodbye hug were a question “you’ll return?”  “To see you as the mayor” I said.  He laughed, I smiled, and I got on the bus.  


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