Sometimes little miracles happen in little old Colombia

Sometimes amazing, unexpected things happen. Sometimes, on completely ordinary days – when the skies are thundering and you can’t decide between television or the gym – truly extraordinary things occur. This is a story about one of those things.

A friend was calling me. “How you doing?” I yelped, trying not to lose my precious TransMilenio balance. “I’m fine,” she snapped. “But tell me, is that really true about your friend? The one called Luis. Is he really going to lose his university scholarship?”

“What?” I said. “Oh, you mean the blog. Yes, he’s lost it already I think. Why?”

“No way,” she said furiously. “I want to give him the money. I don’t think you realise just how difficult it is to win a scholarship here.”

When I eventually worked out that my friend wanted to pay Luis’s fees, I immediately tried to talk her out of it. “You don’t know him,” I said. “The university is a black hole. It takes every peso he has. He’ll need forever to pay you back.”

“Doesn’t matter,” she replied firmly. “I think if someone wants to study that badly, they should be able to. I’ve already made up my mind to help him. Now call him and see if it’s too late.”

Luis struggled to grasp what was happening too (He didn’t know I’d blogged about him, to be fair). He also couldn’t fathom why a complete stranger would lend him money so, eventually, I stopped trying to explain and just passed him my friend’s number. Then I waited.

“She’s really going to lend me the money,” he gasped, when he came back on the line. “She’s really serious about it. She told me to go to the university now to see if I still have my half-scholarship. Then you have to go with her to the bank and bring me the money so I can pay them today.”

An otherwise ordinary Friday had suddenly descended into panic.

An hour later my friend stood watching me, with some concern, as I stuffed crisp 50,000 peso notes into my socks.

“What if someone robs you today?” she whispered. I was carrying a sum roughly equivalent to three months labour on the Colombian minimum wage.

“If someone tries to rob me today, I feel sorry for them,” I grunted. “I am already starting to feel quite emotional about all this and today is now far too important for any messing around.”

She stayed quiet. I should have said something to her then. I should have told her how remarkable she was, how kind and how daring, but I didn’t. I think she was embarrassed by the depth of her spontaneous generosity – at her need to put something right in the world – and she just wanted to pretend it wasn’t a big deal.

It was clearly a big deal.

“I can’t believe he managed to get the scholarship back,” I said, trying to lighten the atmosphere as the bank notes cut into my ankle flesh. (I’ll never smuggle money in my socks again, by the way, it was surprisingly painful)

My friend laughed.

“I told him to refuse to leave the office until they agreed,” she confessed. “He’s only missed one week of the semester. He can definitely catch up.”

I gave her a hug. Sometimes little miracles happen in Colombia.

Once upon a time, in Colombia...


    1. bananaskinflipflops

      I don’t think I can say, if I ‘encourage’ any more generosity he’ll kick my ass! They really need more scholarships and low-interest loans though. I can’t believe he has to work in the office for three hours every day in return for a half-scholarship. When is he supposed to earn the money to live?! (plus, you know, study!!)

  1. Jaime

    Has he tried ICETEX? or universities such as Los Andes in wich 15% of students don’t pay anything and also get money for food and transportation?

    1. bananaskinflipflops

      Ha, he’s really going to have to start answering his own mail!
      That’s interesting, though, I didn’t know Los Andes was free to 15% of students but I guess there’s a lot of competition for that?
      I know he chose his current university based on cost so assume he considered all options – plus his course is quite specific.
      Apparently with ICETEX there was some issue with the rate of interest on the loans repayment?
      I am not the expert, as I said he is going to have to start answering his own mail 🙂

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