When I was a young hippie wannabe, I hitchhiked with a friend through Mexico and Central America to South America, where we planned to spend the winter and then go back up to Alaska to work again on the salmon fishing boats. Along the way, we stayed in modest (read dirt cheap) accommodations, sometimes in a home that rented rooms. These homes were in the shape of a square, with all the rooms opening onto a small, central courtyard.
I remember one place in particular. It was a hot afternoon in southern Mexico, and over in one corner of the courtyard there were several comfortable chairs in the shade. I went over and sat down with a book. A child came out of the nearest door and stared at me. I tried out some high school Spanish, and soon we were pointing at things and naming them in Spanish and English. A little later, some people who appeared to be his family came out and sat down, drinking some cool beverages, offering some to me. I stayed on for awhile, pleased to be mingling with the locals.
Let me make sure you have an accurate picture here. I was, at least at that moment, an unwashed, immodestly dressed, in full bloom flower child, hanging with this rather elegant, proper Mexican family, who did their best to make me feel welcome as they passed the heat of the day in this pleasant corner of the hacienda, while I pestered them with my tedious attempts to communicate.
Later that evening, one of the other guests, a more experienced traveler than I, took me aside and told me that I had been sitting with the owners of the home on their private patio. That trip was long ago and I have many memories of it, but none that taught me as much as that family, who, instead of shooing me away so that they could enjoy their afternoon siesta, graciously treated me as an honored guest.
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