Baia Concha is a nice secluded bay in the Tayrona National Park. Late in the afternoon, when all the people are gone, fishermen and tourists boats have stoped and the sound systems have been shut down, the sun sets behind the greenest hills, the sky turns orange and one can enjoy the sudden silence and the slightly cold touch of the water.
Only a few men and a handful of dogs walk the beach to clear up the trail of plastic cups and food scraps left over by the greasy mass of loud families and overweight kids.
I lie back letting my body float over the calm water, making an effort to ignore a few bits of plastic joggling around me. “Just try to enjoy the stillness of this moment, you’ll pick them up on the way out.” – I tell to myself.
I close my eyes and surrender my body to a calming weightless feeling.
My mind drifts back to the morning: the dusty track, the jeep ride, the chatty man behind the wheel and Sebastián.
It is 11 AM. At the side of the road the sight of wild bushes is occasionally interrupted by rows of football shirts lazily flying in the light breeze.
Sebastián wears a green T-shirt, a black market copy of the Nigerian national football team. When I ask him whether he knows where Nigeria is, he answers: “far”.
His white shorts sport the Real Madrid badge but he’s wearing no shoes. His naked feet hold a small jerrycan full of diesel while our heads almost bump into each in the back of the small Nissan all-wheel drive. The pungent smell of fuel is quite pervasive but somehow not in dissonance with the shaky landscape and the four-by-four keeps rattling as it negotiates the impervious terrain.
Sebastián is a smart little boy. As soon as we got in the vehicle he touched my knee and leaned towards me to whisper in my hear. “Le gusta hablar bastante1” he said with a cheeky smile while pointing at the driver with a quick movement of his chin.
He is a very charming boy. Hard not to feel drawn to him. My usual resistance to kids’ charm is pushed aside for a moment and I find my self chatting with him in my broken Spanish.
“Que vas a hacer a la playa?2”
“Rebusque” he tells me; a Colombian expression used to call small jobs that earn money on the side.
An hour later I see him walking around the beach with a big bin bag, picking up rubbish dropped by the beachgoers. He is earning his day. Sebastián is ten years old.
I ask him what he would like to do when he grows up, well knowing all the wrong implications that come with the question. As if we were destined to be nothing more than the jobs we end up doing. As if a job could define who we are. As if we had no other purpose than earning a salary.
In reality I just want to know what his dreams are, who his role models, whether he even knows what possibilities lie ahead of him.
The answer is disappointing and yet very predictable. Sebastián wants to be a footballer.
Off course he does. What else has he been shown?
How can anyone realise his or her own potential if one doesn’t even know what the possibilities are.
I ask him what else would he do if not that. He shrugs: “No se”, I don’t know.
I move the conversation away sensing his getting uncomfortable: “No te preocupes, hay tiempo3“.
In my head I virtually punch my self.
“Stupid white man”4.
Back at the beach it is time to go and catch the last ride back.
I open my eyes, the sun is about to disappear behind the hills. I pull a couple of shopping bags and a plastic cup out of the sea and put them in my shorts’ pockets.
As I reach for the bin to drop them, I look around at the serene beauty of the place and think once more:
“Stupid white man”.