Tonight I shared some naan and samosa with a good friend, "K" recovering from a recent "break" in his relationship. The "break" had come when the strain of long distance and the baggage the accompanies it became too great a challenge. K lives in San Francisco and she lives in Brazil. Though he'd made three trips within the past six months, each spanning a couple of weeks, the lag time in between and the inconvenience of relying on Skype to keep the relationship afloat was insufficient for them both. With no feasible solution in sight, the pair opted to "break" until they find a way to relocate together.
Even though K was noticably ailing from the loss and unsure of how temporary this "break" would be, he was not defeated. He felt that fate, if not for love, had taken him to Brazil to open his eyes to the needs of the poor there. He described the poverty he'd seen when he first landed in Brazil, and the charge of mission he felt to make a positive change.
His experience reminded me a lot of my trip to Ecuador this past summer. I went to visit my then-boyfriend and his family for a couple of weeks. The trip was a tour of the country's finest: Quito, the capital, the Galapagos Island, Guayaquil (his home town) and to his family's beach home along the coast. We spent a great deal of time in his home town of Guayaquil, though generally within the confines of the gated communities where the upper class huddled along the river on the outskirts of the city. One day, we ventured to a separate part of town forcing us to pass through the poorest area of the city.
The abrupt change in scenery was startling: from homes resembling Beverly Hills to thatched huts lining dirt paths caked with withered bodies posted behind fruit and artisan stands. Skeletal children balanced bottles of coke on their heads as they weaved in and out of cars selling cups of the soft drink. The huts leaned, evidence of poor construction and susceptibility to the elements. (My ex informed me that each rainy season most of these huts would be wiped out by heavy rain or mud slides.) When you see these images on TV they are powerful, but when you witness true poverty for yourself, it is life altering.
Even though my ex and I called it quits when I accepted a job in California, and as any break up, I had to fight not to unearth the residual feelings that linger after break ups, I still felt drawn to go back. Much like K, I believed that my failed relationship wasn't just a dead end, but rather the gateway into discovering a population I was fated to be involved with and to help.
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and even if it doesn't directly influence your life, each event prepares you for something down the road. Regardless of whether K reunites with his Brazilian heartthrob, like me, he has been touched by the experience. Like Reverend Mother advises Fraulein Maria in The Sound of Music, "Whenever God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window." Perhaps the door closing for both K and I may have been the shattering of our hearts when both of relationships reached a point beyond recovery, but somehow a window to a greater purpose was opened.