It was 1964 and I was in fifth grade at The English School in Bogotá, Colombia. I had a friend that lived the “American neighborhood”. An afternoon there felt like a visit to another planet.
Lisa lived in El Chico, where lots of Americans lived, and Mom dropped me off there to play for a couple of hours one Sunday afternoon. Lisa had the Barbie PlayHouse and the Barbie Car so we played Barbie and Ken for a while, putting different outfits on them and walking them around her bedroom.
Then, Lisa told her mother that we were going down to the corner for a snack. She didn’t ask, she told. As if a kid could go down the block without at least a maid. I couldn’t believe it when her mother said, “Okay, dear. There’s pesos in the hall dresser.”
We went out the door. It was like there was a spotlight on us on that sunny day, a spotlight and a megaphone blasting “Here are American children alone” all up and down the street. I waited for something to happen, but Lisa just strolled along, dragging me in her wake. We turned the corner and were now completely out of home range. Lisa didn’t seem to care, just headed down the block, chatting away. I didn’t even hear her.
On the next corner, we went into an ice cream store a little like McVeys; I had no idea there were such things in Bogotá. Lisa went right up to the counter and said “Dos Black Cows,” and now I was totally confused. She looked at me and laughed. “Haven’t you ever had a Coke float?”
I didn’t tell Mom a word about it.
Lisa was from America. I was from the Foreign Service. In the Foreign Service, a grownup walked you to the school bus stop. A grownup walked you to the park to roller skate. A grownup walked you to ballet lessons.
You did not go around the corner alone.